How to Create a Calming Classroom Corner

An article by Richard James Rogers (Award-Winning Author of The Quick Guide to Classroom Management and The Power of Praise: Empowering Students Through Positive Feedback).

Illustrated by Pop Sutthiya Lertyongphati 

A calming corner, sometimes referred to as a mindfulness corner, is a special space in your classroom where students can go when they need to manage their emotions. Calming corners are becoming more and more popular as they help students implement emotional and social learning skills.

The ideal calming corner should offer a wide variety of sensory tools. Some children benefit from reading books where characters resolve a conflict, while others prefer cuddling stuffed animals or playing with fidget toys. From breathing techniques and stretching guides to bubble wrap and coloring books, there are nearly endless options out there to help the kids in your class understand that their feelings are valid. Get inspired to create your own calming corner with the suggestions outlined in today’s blog post.

Strategy #1: Design the space carefully

  • Think about where exactly the calming corner should be. Perhaps a location at the back of the room will work well so that the children who go there do not feel as though everyone is looking at them. Perhaps a location to the side of the main class is useful, so that the teacher can easily supervise the students in both the calming corner and the main class effectively at the same time. The space should be well-lit (natural light is best) and comfortable. There will be some types of classroom in which a calming corner might not be feasible (e.g. a Design Technology workshop, or a Science laboratory), so in those cases a designated classroom where the students can be sent to, or perhaps a calming corner in the school library, might work best.
  • Choose comfortable furniture. As a bare minimum you will need a place where students can sit comfortably, and the size of this furniture will greatly depend on how much space you have. Bean bags can work well, and a small desk or table, or perhaps a lap-tray, can be useful if you want your students to complete some kind of reflection sheet (more on this later).
  • Include sensory tools. There are many to choose from, but the most popular include stress balls, Sensory Stixx (which are a type of fidget toy), fidget spinners, cuddly toys and old-style handheld games like gel mazes, pinball games and other push-button manual toys. I wouldn’t recommend modern computer games as these days they tend to be designed to get players addicted and can cause more aggression feelings, rather than encouraging relaxation. However, I do believe there’s something to be said for having a retro-computer (not internet connected) such as an Atari ST or BBC Microcomputer with old-style games loaded onto the system, for students to enjoy playing. These systems can be picked up relatively cheaply on sites such as eBay, and the games tend to be simpler and more kid-focussed than modern multiplayer, online games, such as Fortnite.

Strategy #2: Include self-reflection tools and activities

Children who wish to go to a calming corner should be encouraged to reflect upon their emotions and thoughts. This is really good for building self-awareness, which is desperately needed in today’s world.

“An amazing book.”

There are a number of well-established self-reflection tools out there already, and I personally would recommend the following:

  • Learning journals: A simple notebook for students to write down their individual thoughts and feelings can be a great way for them to see the progress they have made over time. I would recommend giving each student a personal notebook, which could be kept by the student in their bag at all times, or by the teacher. In addition, an online journal via Google Docs or Slides could also work well, and students who go to the calming corner could spend time adding their thoughts and feelings to the journal. I’ve written at length about how I use learning journals to help students prepare for exams before, but the same principles can definitely be applied to situations in which students are reflecting on their feelings and thoughts.
  • This great blog post by Martyn Kenneth goes through some useful acronyms that guide students through a self-reflection process. You may also wish to use his free pdf Reflective Journal for Students, and keep copies of this in your classroom’s calming corner.
  • Get your classroom calming students to create a ‘Me Tree’ – a very effective and fun self-analysis tool. Follow the steps outlined here.

Strategy #3: Teach students about the Classroom Calming Corner

The Mindfulness in Schools Project is still a relatively new national initiative in the UK, and the majority of schools internationally are still novices when it comes to getting students to reflect meaningfully on their thoughts and emotions. For this reason, many of the children in our care are simply not used to carrying out detailed introspections, and will need training in order to do so.

Encourage students to visit the classroom calming corner regularly at first – perhaps on a rotational basis, and use the self-reflection tools outlined to get students to reflect on their learning, thoughts and (later) emotions. Once this habit has been established, and any taboo/stigma has been removed, allow students the freedom to choose when they wish to go to the classroom calming corner. Of course, this will take vigilance on the part of the teacher as we don’t want 20 students going to the corner when a challenging task is given in-class, for example. A good way to overcome this might be to set a limit on how many students can be in the corner at one time, and schedule times in your lessons when students can have a menu of activities to choose from – one of which being ‘reflection time’ in the classroom calming corner.

Recommended further reading

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Hybrid Teaching Apps, Ideas and Strategies

An article by Richard James Rogers (Award-Winning Author of The Quick Guide to Classroom Management and The Power of Praise: Empowering Students Through Positive Feedback).

Illustrated by Pop Sutthiya Lertyongphati 

Many schools are now facing an unprecedented challenge as the world learns tolive with‘ COVID-19: the need to teach students who are in-school physically and online at the same time. This is called ‘hybrid’ teaching.

I was surprised to discover during my research for this blog post that hybrid teaching has been around for quite some time – decades before the novel coronavirus even surfaced, in fact. In addition, the practice was initiated in a sector outside of education – business. As far back as 1993, astonishingly, companies around the world were holding seminars, workshops, meetings and training for employees who were both on-site and online at the same time.

In today’s blog post I’ll be drawing upon some of the hard-earned expertise that has come from the business sector when discussing some practical strategies for making hybrid teaching clear and effective. In addition, I’ll be describing a number of apps that I am currently using to great effect to keep my online and on-site students focused and stimulated. And the best part – all of the apps I will describe can be used at high functionality for free!

Hybrid teaching apps

  • Nearpod: This is one of my all-time favourite hybrid teaching apps. Nearpod is basically a very interactive slideshow application in which the teacher can add various activities, such as drawing tasks, multiple choice questions, fill-in the blanks questions, picture/word matching, a noticeboard and so much more. Moreover, it takes a matter of minutes to upload a slideshow to Nearpod (multiple file formats are accepted) and add the various activities. Once your lesson is ready, students simply go to join.nearpod.com and type in a code that you have shared with them. As a bonus – when the teacher moves from one slide to another, all of the students’ devices will show the slide transition too! It really is an awesome app, and one of the most popular among teachers who I deliver workshops to. Check it out!
  • Classkick: One of the most irritating things I find with using Google Docs/Slides with students is that the teacher cannot see all of the students’ work in real-time, in one place – you have to go into each student’s work separately to see what progress is being made. Well, some good news – Classkick solves this problem. Students log in to a classroom with a simple code and within seconds they are given a blank sheet in which they can add pictures, text, drawings and even voice clips! Additionally, as a teacher, you can see every piece of work in one place, in real-time, and can therefore easily see which students are not doing the work, or are working too slowly. It’s a great app for any kind of creative project that you would like your students to do, such as infographic creation, cartoon storyboarding, revision summaries or anything else that comes to mind.
  • Whiteboard.fi: Another legendary app that’s very simple to explain – it’s a virtual mini-whiteboarding app in which the teacher can see all of the students’ mini whiteboards in one place. It’s super cool, and again – students are able to log in within seconds by typing in a simple code.
  • Kami: This app turns static documents (e.g. pdfs) into interactive documents. Again, this app is super simple to use – the teacher uploads a static document, such as a revision booklet, and students can log in with a simple code and write all over the document. One amazing feature of Kami is its text-to-speech function – students can highlight any words within the document you’ve uploaded and the app will turn those words into an audible computer-generated voice. This is great for students who are learning how to verbalise key vocabulary.
  • Padlet: This is a very well-known and respected app for a reason – it’s simple to use and very customizable. Padlet is basically a noticeboard in which students can quickly log in (again, with a simple code) and post answers to a question, a summary of what they’ve learned that lesson, or anything the teacher chooses. Students can even post comments on each other’s posts (if that functionality is activated by the teacher). Filters for profanity can be activated and teacher-approval can be set up so that all posts can be checked before publishing. Check out the little-known ‘Shelf’ function on Padlet – this allows the teacher to post a sequence of questions or activities that students can complete at their own pace during a lesson. Here’s a screenshot of a very recent Padlet I created for my Year 11 Physics’ class – in this case I asked students to post a summary of what they had learned that lesson:
A recent Padlet I used with my Year 11 Physics class

Practical hybrid learning tips (from the corporate sector)

This great, free pdf book outlines some logistical enhancements that can be made to hybrid learning classrooms:

  • Remove background noise: Be aware that if your system isn’t on mute then eveyone can hear you rustling through papers, typing on your keyboard, drinking/slurping coffee, coughing, tapping on your desk and a variety of other noises. Some video-conferencing apps do have noise-reduction features built-in, so definitely activate those features if available.
  • Prepare: Do a test-run before the lesson begins. Make sure you know how to use the technology/apps you want to implement. Do you have a back-up plan in case something doesn’t work?
  • Consider lighting: Avoid bright background light (which can make you look like a silhouette on-screen). Test the camera to make sure that your students can clearly see your face.
  • Default to mute: Keep your microphone on mute, and unmute just before speaking, to avoid unwanted audio feedback.
  • Think about your location: Your desk space, background and location may be on display when you are video-conferencing, A messy space can reflect badly on you, so consider using a custom background image or moving the camera to a more favorable location.
  • Adjust your position accordingly: Make sure your head isn’t ‘cut off’ in the camera frame – position the equipment so that your face, neck and shoulders appear in the middle of the frame (if at all possible).

Your questions answered

Question about Nearpod from Mirian (via Facebook):

Sorry to ask but Nearpod seems to be really useful. Is it an app I have to download or a webpage? Because I logged in but then I couldn’t create my lessons or it didn’t generate a code for my students. Probably I didn’t do things properly 

Answer:

It’s a website. You’ll need to create an account, upload a slide presentation (as a pdf – just click ‘save as’ on your ppt and convert to a pdf.). Once your slide show is uploaded and saved (Nearpod will ask you to choose the subject and age level), you then need to click on ‘Live Lesson’. This will generate a code. Share the code with your students and you are good to go.

I have made a video describing how to create an awesome, free Nearpod lesson here:

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5 Ways That Teachers Can Work Effectively With Parents to Help Their Students

richardjamesrogers.com is the official blog of Richard James Rogers: high school Science teacher and the award-winning author of The Quick Guide to Classroom Management: 45 Secrets That All High School Teachers Need to Know. This blog post is illustrated by Pop Sutthiya Lertyongphati.

I’ve made the point before that parent’s are our allies, not our enemies. It’s important to foster productive relationships with the parents of our students so that our learners feel fully supported in their education. How exactly do we foster those relationships, though? This week, I’ve invited Kat Sarmiento to share her thoughts on how to keep parents on our side.

Kat Sarmiento

Parents and teachers share the same goal: to ensure that students have the most excellent educational experience possible. In a study by the National Committee for Citizens in Education, one of the best approaches to creating a positive learning environment is encouraging parents’ engagement in their children’s school lives. 

Teachers who focus on involving parents see a profound change in their classrooms. Parental involvement begins at home, with the parents providing a safe and conducive environment for learning, experiences, support, and a positive outlook about the importance of education.

Parents actively involved in their child’s education provide the home support and knowledge that their children need—not just to accomplish assignments—but also to develop a lifelong love for learning.

Given that the importance of parents’ help in a child’s learning is beyond dispute, how can teachers work effectively with parents to help their students?

#1: Open reliable channels for communication

In a parent-teacher relationship, frequent two-way communication is essential so parents can stay updated on what is happening at school. At the same time, inform teachers about the important things concerning the child. 

A common mistake amongst teachers is not communicating enough or only getting in touch when there’s already a problem. It is best not to wait for situations to arise before reaching out. Teachers need to interact frequently and positively with parents to build a relationship before facing any roadblocks. Especially with today’s technology, teachers can do weekly reviews and quickly update parents on what’s going on in the classroom. 

It is critical to identify the best communication tools, develop messaging plans early in the year, and maintain consistent communication throughout the year. Maximize video conferencing apps, messaging boards, emails, social media, memos, newsletters, phone calls and find out what works best.

#2: Be collaborative

If communication is frequent, then collaboration will be easier.

A collaborative approach means that parents participate in the school’s decisions and work together to enhance the students’ learning and development.

Parents are well aware of their child’s lifestyle, developmental history, and interests. At the same time, teachers know how they can best guide and help their students perform in school.

Parents and teachers collaboratively sharing knowledge will go a long way to support a child’s growth and academic success. It includes relating what a child learns at school with what they learn at home.

The goal is to create a partnership in which teachers and parents share expertise to provide the best education for the students. Reciprocal respect, sharing of planning, and decision-making responsibilities are the essential components for true partnerships between parents and teachers.

#3: Encourage learning at home

Parents should support after-school learning by talking positively about school and teachers, creating a supportive home environment.

This form of involvement includes parents assisting their children with homework or taking them to a museum. These activities foster a school-oriented family and encourage parents to be involved in the school curriculum. 

Activities that encourage learning at home provide parents with information on what children are doing in the classroom and how to help them. Research shows that parental engagement is associated with increased productivity and academic achievement in many ways.

Participating in a child’s education shows that parents values their learning. The more help and guidance a child feels at home, the more effectively they will learn at school.

#4: Build a trusting relationship

In many respects, the first interaction between a teacher and a parent is the most crucial. During this time, a rapport is established, and trust can begin to develop.

Trust is a crucial component of any successful partnership. Teachers must maintain a trusting, private, open, and honest relationship with parents and ensure they always have the students’ best interest at heart. At the same time, parents should be confident in the competency of the teachers who are professionally involved in their children’s education.

#5: Make the curriculum transparent

Part of keeping parents informed is letting them know what their children are learning, how they are processing it, and how it will help their child succeed.

One way to do this is by conducting workshops for parents to inform them of the school curriculum and remind them that they are still their child’s most important teachers.

The bottom line is that education is a critical stage in a child’s growth and development. When parents and teachers collaborate as a team, children learn more effectively. And like any team, parents and teachers have one goal: provide the most incredible learning environment for children to promote their physical, emotional, and intellectual well-being.

Kat Sarmiento

Kat is a Molecular Biology Scientist turned Growth Marketing Scientist. During her free time, she loves to write articles that will bring delight, empower women, and spark the business mind. She loves to bake but unfortunately, baking doesn’t love her back. She has many things in her arsenal and writing is one of her passion projects.

We welcome you to join the Richard Rogers online community. Like our Facebook page and follow us on Twitter for daily updates.

5 Ways to Use The School Library With Your Students

An article by Richard James Rogers (Award-Winning Author of The Quick Guide to Classroom Management and The Power of Praise: Empowering Students Through Positive Feedback).

Illustrated by Pop Sutthiya Lertyongphati 

Accompanying podcast episode (audio version of this blog post, read by Richard):

One often overlooked part of the school is the library – a place where so much deep learning, joy and enrichment can take place when visits are planned properly.

I, like so many of us born before the widespread introduction of the internet, can personally recall experiences of going to local libraries, or school libraries, to do the necessary studying and research needed to succeed in our exams. Back then, we kind of had to find the information we needed in books – we didn’t have many alternatives, unlike today’s digital natives.

My local library in Flint, North Wales, was (thankfully) well stocked with great books. My Easter strategy in 1999, when revising for my GCSE exams, was simple: Spend every day at the library using every textbook I could find to revise every topic I could.

Flint Library: The place where I made my dreams come true

In today’s connected world, libraries can still fulfill a number of important purposes and there are still many, many ways in which teachers can utilise library space and time with their students.

Tip #1: Individual or group reading time

This might sound like a old-fashioned activity, but it’s actually never been more important to be mindful of students’ screen time:

  • Dutch study involving 10,000 participants in Rotterdam concluded that smartphones are causing nearsightedness in children. This has also been backed up by studies and observations in CanadaAmerica and Ireland.
  • The Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health caused shockwaves in 2016 with the conclusion of its study: that smartphone and tablet use correlates strongly with obesity in teens. Similar findings have come from a number of respectable sources, including a massive, global joint study between Stanford University and the American National Institutes of Health which was concluded in 2015.
  • Sleep-deprivation is a common side-effect of smartphone and tablet addiction. Research from the Division of Cardiology at the University of California (San Francisco), for example, has found that the use of mobile devices near bedtime is connected with low-quality sleep. 

Of course, it’s unrealistic to think that some time spent in the library each week doing some reading (of physical books) will solve these problems. However, if reading time is planned properly, then students can develop a love and passion for reading as time goes byand this is important because reading physical books is associated with many, many benefits:

  • A 2010 study by the University of Liverpool found that reading can alleviate the symptoms of depression and improve overall wellbeing.
  • A 2015 research summary by Professor Alice Sullivan presented strong evidence to suggest that “encouraging a love of reading has an important role to play in promoting learning both in childhood and in adult life.”
  • A fact that teachers have known for a long time: that extensive reading improves language acquisition and confidence in the use of technical/key terminology. This is supported by lots of research, including this excellent and thorough 1997 paper by Paul Nation of the Victoria University of Wellington.

Tip #2: Collaborate and create!

Set up times, or clubs, in the library, where students can read to each other and perhaps generate some kind of creative output – perhaps building a model of what they’ve read (e.g. for Design Technology), calculating and mapping the frequency of different words (Mathematics) or even creating the costumes the characters might be wearing (Textiles). When reading becomes an active process, students realize that there’s actually a lot of ‘juice’ one can squeeze from a book, or even a short segment of text.

“An AMAZING book!”

The possibilities for collaboration in reading, coupled with creative outputs, really are limited only by one’s imagination. In fact, you may wish to ‘crowdsource’ ideas from the children themselves, perhaps by using a worksheet/prompt like the one below:

If you like the above tool, then you can download it as a pdf here.

#3: Use the library as a base to host reading and reading-related competitions and events

Some ideas to consider are:

  • Celebrate World Book Day by allowing students to come into school dressed as their favourite book characters. Perhaps offer special prizes for the best costumes, or even run a fashion show on the day. Award plus points/merits/whatever your school’s ‘reward tokens’ are for students who bring in their favourite books on the day.
  • Invite a local author to come into school to talk about their work. As an author myself, I know for a fact that the author will love the opportunity to gain some exposure, and if you ask politely you may even get some free, signed books for school out of it.
  • Run book clubs or events by genre – specialization can generate more interest in reading. Have a day for self-help books, one for non-fiction, one for animals – anything that the students are interested in.
  • Take the students to a reading-related place, such as a local library or actual location from a book. Students will often be unaware that these places exist in the first place, and their discovery may set in-motion some profound changes that result in a love of reading. My primary school took me to my local library as child, for example, and that place became my study-hangout in my teens. I just loved being surrounded by all of those books. It’s a feeling that’s very unique.

#4: Do a library scavenger hunt

Do you know what a library scavenger hunt is? If you do, then great! To my shame and embarrassment, however, I only recently learned what such an activity involves.

The idea is pretty simple: Draw up a list of different types of book for your students to find – for example, information books, picture books, books authors with the same initials as them, books that cover certain topics – and award points for each one they track down.

You can also create a scavenger hunt for really young children who can’t yet read by giving them pictures of things to find: like a book, a desktop computer, a magazine, a bean bag, and so on.

#5: Do a book-related quiz

This is a simple, yet effective, idea. Divide your students into groups and provide them with the textbooks needed to answer questions in a quiz/worksheet you give to them. Different groups could cover different topics, and report back to each other (e.g. as in a market-place activity), or all groups could cover the same topic but with different books as resource material. This will teach students how to look up information in books, whilst providing a fun, competitive environment at the same time. The fastest team to complete the worksheet could win the competition, or perhaps points could be assigned to each question.

Further reading (no pun intended):

We welcome you to join the Richard Rogers online community. Like our Facebook page and follow us on Twitter for daily updates.

6 Reasons Why Education is Important

richardjamesrogers.com is the official blog of Richard James Rogers: high school Science teacher and the award-winning author of The Quick Guide to Classroom Management: 45 Secrets That All High School Teachers Need to Know. This blog post is illustrated by Pop Sutthiya Lertyongphati.

We all understand the importance of developing ourselves professionally – whether that be by improving a particular set of teaching skills or by learning new ones. Sometimes, however, it’s important to go right back to the core fundamentals by considering why we do what we do in the first place. This week, I’ve invited Kat Sarmiento (content writer at Katreena’s Content Studio) to share her thoughts on why education is important in the first place.

Why is education important? To many of us, we learn the value of education from what the adults say. As children, not everyone understands why do we study, go to school, spend our free time with homework and learn. As we grow older, it becomes more and more necessary to receive the right level of education.

Learning is among the best habits of successful people. It creates future leaders, builds a polite society, and moves forward the future of humanity. If you or someone you know is questioning why they need to study, show this to them. Here are 6 reasons why education is important not only to you but for everyone.

#1: Education Teaches Independence

Education is not about learning random facts that you can’t use in real life. Whether you’re slaking your thirst for knowledge or you’re doing it for something more practical, education makes you independent. Early education molds you as a crucial, functioning member of society, no matter your age.

For younger children, education is there to teach them the basic skills necessary to survive society. For adolescents, proper education arms them with tools that can help them take advantage of opportunities. Higher learning like uni and post-grad demystifies the world further.

All these teach independence – from how the mechanics of how the body works to knowing what to do in a job. Independence is a matter of learning how to succeed after failure, how to protect yourself from opportunists, and how to deal with life in general. Life can be hard but education equips you with the right ways to make the most out of it.

#2: Education Provides More Employment Opportunities

With 7 billion people on Earth and around 330 million in the United States, finding a job is not easy. If you want a job that pays above the minimum wage, you usually need to have at least higher learning, if not more. Even at entry-level, you need to compete with hundreds of applicants vying for the same position.

Learning higher education, with the right teaching techniques, can give you the edge you need. You can differentiate yourself and fulfill a job demand within society. The world can never have too many data scientists, engineers, scientists, and more.

As you go and specialize even further, you expand your job opportunities and find more specific job opportunities. Depending on what you do, not only can you improve your chances of getting hired, you also stand out even further. Educate yourself, graduate, improve your skills, and get more qualifications to get ahead of the competition.

#3: Education Helps Us Connect

In many situations, those who don’t educate themselves are the ones who don’t understand other people. Education helps breed culture, and the lack of the former can result in an apparent lack of the latter. Education helps you understand people better, especially those who are different than you.

Education teaches you more about geography, history, and social sciences, which are crucial to know how to deal with multiple walks of life. Prejudices and discrimination according to race, gender orientation, physical ability, and more come from the lack of knowledge over many things that you learn at school.

The more we understand about the world and the people who are different than use, the better we can put ourselves in their shoes. It allows us to appreciate the good things about other cultures and help curb negative stereotypes that divide us as humans. We also learn more about our surroundings.

Education helps us empathize. It gives us a better understanding of the world and become better citizens of this world. It familiarizes things we don’t know and takes away potential prejudices we have towards them.

#4: Education Alleviates Poverty

Poverty is one of the most crippling social statuses in the world. It is painful for those stuck in it, as the lack of resources means a lack of nutrition and other essential needs too. To many, education is a luxury taken for granted but for many around the world, it is their ticket out of poverty.

As we said, proper education teaches you crucial life skills in a society that needs them. At the very least, reading, writing, and arithmetic teaches children to know how to deal with people. Each additional year of education can offer better education, better-paying jobs, and more ways to feed their families.

“An AMAZING Book!”

As we educate people, we also teach the future generation to be more discerning about their would-be leaders. People learn critical thinking skills necessary to help them make better decisions. This education, paired with the will to progress, can help people find better-paying jobs that can alleviate poverty.

#5: Education Breeds Confidence

One of the keys to getting further in life is being confident in everything that you do. Knowing your skills, what you bring to the table, what you can do, and what you can further learn can help you gain the confidence to succeed. Whether you have an art degree or a business background, education makes you confident with what you know.

To succeed, you need the confidence to look your uncertainties straight in the eye. It helps you overcome your fears, self-doubt, and crippling anxiety. Confidence also gives you the drive to start projects, show off their new ideas, and think outside the box.

Education can help breed confidence. As you learn more, the better you can express your thoughts and unveil your intellect. You can say yes to opportunities you believe you deserve and no to things that you don’t. Education breeds confidence, and the more you know, the fewer people can take advantage of you.

#6: Education Brings Equity

Education is one of the ultimate equalizers of the world. If you’re looking to simply be educated, it makes all opportunities more open to you, giving you a fair chance. If you’re looking to educate, you give other people a better chance to make the most out of their talents.

A world of knowledge is a world of equity. Everyone learns at different speeds – at various rates. Every person has a different starting point. Education can help get you and everyone else to the same finish line – success.

The Bottom Line

Whether it’s for yourself, your family, or other people, education is one of the most powerful weapons you can wield. The world is yours to take and you can uplift yourself and the people around you with the right education. You don’t have to be the next billionaire to see how valuable education can be.

Are you ready to learn? Educate yourself. Knowledge is the best foundation you can use to succeed in life. Even without selfless reasons, proper education can help all of us live in a better, more polite society.

Kat Sarmiento

Kat is a Molecular Biology Scientist turned Growth Marketing Scientist. During her free time, she loves to write articles that will bring delight, empower women, and spark the business mind. She loves to bake but unfortunately, baking doesn’t love her back. She has many things in her arsenal and writing is one of her passion projects.

The Many Benefits of Doing a Weekly Review

An article by Richard James Rogers (Award-winning author of The Quick Guide to Classroom Management)Illustrated by Pop Sutthiya Lertyongphati.

Accompanying podcast:

When I look back over the past 16 years of my life as a high school Science Teacher I realize that there are some foundational habits I have adopted which have led to my success in the classroom. Small things, done regularly, which snowball to create a massive impact over time.

One such habit is the Weekly Review.

Just this Sunday gone, as I was finally sitting down again at my favorite Bangkok Starbucks after lockdown restrictions were recently lifted, I realised that the time I was spending reading over my lesson plans was absolutely priceless. You see, a weekly review is just that: time spent reading over the week just gone, planning the week ahead and checking through assignments and work that may have been submitted electronically.

For me, I like to find a quiet place on a Sunday morning to do my Weekly Review – somewhere where I can focus and not be distracted. Some teachers reading this may scoff at the thought of giving up a sacred Sunday morning for school work – after all, this is my free time, right?

You may be surprised to learn, however, that this time I invest every Sunday morning is so valuable because it actually saves me a ton of headaches and stress in the ensuing week of teaching. For me, Sunday works well. For you, this might not be the case, and that’s fine! Choose a day and time that works for you each week, if you can – a free double lesson in your timetable may be suitable, for example.

One question you might now be asking is “Why is a weekly review so useful, anyway?”. Well, get ready because I’m about to describe four ways in which a weekly review can solve so many day-to-day teacher problems.

Weekly Review benefit #1: It allows me to see where I am with my classes, and think about the pace I’m going at

It’s so important to consistently look at where we’re at right now with our students, and where we need to go. Questions I ask myself during this part of the Weekly Review are:

  1. Are my students at the right place in the curriculum map? Am I behind schedule, or am I ahead of schedule?
  2. If my students are not where they should be in terms of topics covered to-date, then why is that?
  3. Am I going too slow, or do I need to speed up with this class?

Answering these three questions is so important: especially for exam-level classes who usually have a large amount of content to cover in a relatively short amount of time. Pacing is so important, in fact, that the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development recently stated in an excellent 2020 article that:

There’s a correlation between effective pacing and student engagement, so it’s crucial to consider the speed at which you move through a lesson and the rate of delivery for different parts of the lesson. When pacing is too slow, students often become bored and disengaged. When it’s too fast, some may not grasp what’s being taught and get lost—or discouraged.

Craig Simmons, ASCD.org. Available at https://www.ascd.org/el/articles/pacing-lessons-for-optimal-learning

From this we see that the regular consideration of pace is crucial to not only ensuring that content is covered on-time, but also to ensuring that student engagement is maintained. For me, I need a weekly check-up when it comes to pace, and my Weekly Review works on this like a treat.

Weekly Review benefit #2: It allows me to see if I am lacking variety in my teaching

One of the very first things I learned on my PGCE teacher-training course way back in 2005 was that each and every lesson should contain a variety of activities. 16 years later, and I have come to the conclusion that this is true.

Students generally become disengaged and disinterested when the same types of activities are used over and over again. Whilst it may not be possible to include more that two or three types of activity within each individual lesson, it is possible to introduce variety over a series of lessons – such as those taught within a week. My Weekly Review allows me to answer the following key questions about variety:

  1. Have I been giving my students the same kinds of activities all week, or did I make my lessons varied and fun?
  2. What kinds of useful activities have my students not done yet, and would therefore benefit from next week?
  3. Which activities worked well, and could be repeated in the future? Which activities did not work well, and should be avoided next week?
  4. Did my students do too much writing or copying, and not enough active engagement? How could I fix this next week?
  5. Am I expecting too much from my students?
  6. Am I boring my students?
  7. Are my activities suitable and relevant?

Sometimes I think, as teachers, we all have our own favourite ‘menu’ of techniques that have consistently worked well for us time and time again. For me, for example, I use a lot of past-exam paper questions because I know that they are every effective at getting students familiar with key vocabulary and the rigors of the real exam. However, my personal list of favourite techniques is still fairly limited in scope, even after 16 years of refinement, and I recognise that I must go outside of my comfort zone again and again to try out new ideas, activities, apps and systems.

One tip I would recommend is to always write out brief lesson plans in a custom-made teachers’ planner each week, rather than relying on looking back through your week on Google Classroom, Moodle, Firefly, etc. When you have your whole week mapped-out on a double-page spread, it makes the Weekly Review process straightforward and efficient.

Weekly Review benefit #3: It allows me to see what student work is missing, and if students need to catch-up

I personally have always found it quite a challenge to assess or mark student work on a day-to-day basis. Instead, a dedicated weekly slot, such as my Weekly Review time, works wonders when it comes to managing my workload and stress levels. By checking through all of my assignments on Google Classroom, or any system I am using, I can see which students are behind with their work and which students are up-to-speed. Whilst it may be necessary to chase students up on the day an assignment is due in, the Weekly Review allows me to see which students have ‘slipped-through the net’, so to speak, and which students have still not submitted work despite being given a reminder.

Nowadays we do not need to take home piles and piles of notebooks home to mark like we did in the early days of teaching – we can check assignments submitted electronically and, I would suggest, use some of the Weekly Review time for marking and assessment. In addition, this time allows us to reward those students who are consistently putting forth good effort – perhaps by giving plus points, merits or whatever our school’s rewards’ system happens to be.

With students who are identified as being behind on their work, we can issue reminders or deploy sanctions in the ensuing week. In addition, if a whole class has been flagged as being behind on a task (sometimes we underestimate how long an activity can take), then that class can be given time to catch-up at some point the following week (if enough curriculum time is available – otherwise this can be set as homework).

Weekly Review benefit #4: It allows me to plan ahead intelligently

Planning ahead intelligently is not quite the same as just planning ahead. Based on the information gathered during the Weekly Review about the stages the students are at in their courses, the pace I’m going at, the level of variety I’m including in lessons and student status regarding missed work or partially complete assignments, I can now plan my week ahead with much better clarity and purpose than if I were not to consider all of these factors.

This is probably the main objective of the Weekly Review – the opportunity to figure out what I’m going to teach the following week (and how I’m going to do it). However, as I hope you’ve seen from the previous points raised, a lot of information must be gathered before effective planning can take place.

Based on my observations and communications over the past 16 years, I have come to the conclusion that there is still a significant minority of teachers in the profession who are planning lessons on a day-to-day basis. This holds especially true for trainee teachers and those who are new to teaching. I’ve been there myself – life gets busy and often we can fall into a ‘survival’ mode of teaching whereby we only focus on short-term goals and getting through the day ahead. This strategy, however, is not only inefficient – it’s stressful and ineffective. Students undoubtedly suffer when the teacher doesn’t plan ahead intelligently: considering long-term and medium-term goals, as lessons are never as optimal as they could be when real thought, time, effort and professional intelligence have gone into the planning process.

Planning ahead intelligently via the Weekly Review process has had a dramatic and positive effect on my teaching over time:

  • I start each day in a much better frame of mind than when my week of teaching has not been planned intelligently.
  • I can set work via electronic means in a much more timely manner: often scheduling assignments in advance (with Google Classroom, for example, assignments can be scheduled to post at any point in future). This leaves me free to just turn up and deliver great lessons without the hassle and stress of setting assignments, posting materials and creating announcements on a daily basis.
  • I feel much more confident every day when I’ve done a Weekly Review, as my resources, ideas, activities and direction are already mapped-out fully.

Conclusion

A comprehensive Weekly Review allows us, as teachers, to:

  1. Check whether we’re on-schedule, behind-schedule or ahead of schedule with different classes.
  2. Consider our pacing.
  3. Evaluate the level of variety and stimulation we are providing to our students within our lessons.
  4. Figure out what student work is missing, and who needs to catch up.
  5. Plan ahead intelligently.
  6. Act on those plans, and review everything again the following week.

I’ll finish by stating a key principle of teaching that I was taught on my PGCE course at Bangor University way back in 2005: Be a reflective practitioner. A Weekly Review is an excellent way to do just that.

We welcome you to join the Richard James Rogers online community! Join us on Facebook and Twitter for regular updates, giveaways of Richard’s books, special offers, upcoming events and news. 

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7 Effective Ways to Cultivate Student Resilience in the Classroom

richardjamesrogers.com is the official blog of Richard James Rogers: high school Science teacher and award-winning author of The Quick Guide to Classroom Management. This blog post is illustrated by Pop Sutthiya Lertyongphati.

Resilience is defined by the Cambridge Dictionary as “the ability to be happy, successful, etc. again after something difficult or bad has happened”. Resilience is an important life-skill for children to acquire whilst at school. Reach Out Australia, for example, states that “When students feel like the outcome won’t affect them negatively, they are more likely to try new and more challenging things in the classroom. Being able to learn from mistakes and challenges in a place where they feel supported and encouraged will build their confidence, self-belief and resilience. Today, I’ve invited Jessica Robinson, educational writer at The Speaking Polymath, to write this excellent blog post describing seven ways to cultivate student resilience in the classroom. Enjoy!

“When we learn how to become resilient, we learn how to embrace the beautifully broad spectrum of the human experience.”

Jaeda Dewalt

Life is a beautiful adventure that has its ups and downs. Unexpected things happen in this world and within moments your life turns upside down. Take the example of the pandemic: one day, suddenly, we got to know about a virus that had infected masses of people in China and within days the virus spread to multiple countries of the world. It caused wide-scale casualties, governments imposed lockdowns and the sad ‘new normal’ began.

Sudden events that happen in life can make you realize how important it is to be resilient. If we are resilient, we can withstand the storms that come our way and emerge victorious. During our days in quarantine, as I spent this trying time with my kids who were feeling anxious, I realized that the pandemic is a big challenge, especially for children. They are facing such difficulties at a very young age in their lives. This experience motivated me to start cultivating resilience in my kids. Every day, I make them engage in different activities that can empower their resilience. Watching them become emotionally and mentally stronger has motivated me to also work on cultivating student resilience in the classroom.

Here, I am going to share some effective strategies that have helped me turn my kids into more resilient beings. I have started using these strategies with my students too and I hope that you’ll also use them to help your students cultivate strong resilience.

#1: Make children engage in activities that challenge them physically

This is one of the best ways that have helped me cultivate resilience in my kids. Anything that challenges them physically, helps them gain confidence in themselves, their abilities, and their body. This self-confidence gives them the strength to bear difficulties in life with courage. So, you should try to make your students engage in activities that challenge them physically. You can make them play new games that require more physical as well as mental efforts and help them develop confidence in their physical and mental capabilities. As far as I am concerned, I make my students participate in different kinds of races to challenge their physical capabilities and scavenger hunts with challenging quizzes to help them develop confidence in their mental capabilities. Moreover, I also tell them to not compete with each other but strive to become a better version of themselves. Believe me, this tactic really works.

#2: Help them inculcate confident and influential body language

Do you know that your body language and your feelings are interconnected? Yes, this is true. That is why, whenever you are sad, you sit or stand with a hunched back, look down and your smile fades away. This is an example of how your emotions impact your body language. In the same way, your body language also impacts your emotions. You can use this connection between emotions and body language to help your students become more resilient. You can help them learn body language techniques to regulate their emotions. For example, power posing in a confident way can help your students face challenges with courage. To know more about power posing and the benefits of influential body language, you can watch the Ted Talk by Amy Cuddy. Further, you can also read different books and watch videos on Body Language to help your students inculcate confident and influential body language.

#3: Make them engage in creative pursuits

According to one study published by Colin G. Deyoung and Paul J. Silvia in the Journal of Positive Psychology, creativity encourages positive emotions that can unlock our inner resources for dealing with stress and uncertainty. This implies that we can help kids develop a strong resilience in an interesting way by making them engage in creative pursuits. If a child loves painting, you can let him express his creative self through painting for some time every day. If a child loves dancing, you can let him express his creative endeavors through dancing. By engaging in their favorite creative pursuits, your students will develop strong resilience over time. Along with this, they’ll also become happier and calmer versions of themselves which will ultimately help them become more resilient in life.

#4: Create a gratitude ritual and practice it together

‘Gratitude’, we have heard this word a lot and we have also received the advice to express gratitude from many influential people. But, we often feel that expressing gratitude cannot do us enough good as it is a very simple practice. We think that we need to look for something better and so on. But, believe me, we have been wrong whenever we have thought this way. I have seen tremendous positive changes in myself and my kids by following a gratitude ritual for the past two months regularly. We are happier, more optimistic, and therefore, more resilient too. Moreover, research also shows that gratitude can help us rewire our brains towards positivity. So, you should try to create a gratitude ritual and practice it with your students. A simple gratitude ritual is to write down three things that you are grateful for every day. You can try this one or create your own gratitude ritual.

#5: Help them build meaningful social connections

The American Psychological Association wrote in its resilience report, “Many studies show that the primary factor in resilience is having caring and supportive relationships within and outside the family.” When you have supportive relationships in your life, you feel safe and protected. You know that there are always people you can count on whenever you get faced with any problems in life. This knowingness gives you the strength to withstand the challenges that come in your life. This implies that we can help our students build strong resilience by encouraging them to cultivate meaningful social relationships with others. We can help our students build strong friendships with each other and cultivate good relationships with us as well as other people from the school staff. This way, we can teach our students to form meaningful connections with people and boost their resilience.

#6: Make them engage in healthy risk-taking

The development of self-confidence is crucial for us to cultivate strong resilience. You can help your students become self-confident by making them engage in healthy risk-taking. For example, if your students are afraid of dogs, you can bring a little puppy and encourage them to play with it. No doubt, they’ll feel a little afraid in the beginning but then, after playing safely with the puppy, their confidence level in their abilities to take risks will increase. As a result, they’ll cultivate a strong resilience over time.

#7: Teach them some coping mechanisms to calm themselves under overwhelming situations

If you have the ability to help yourself calm down even under challenging times, you naturally have strong resilience. You feel confident about yourself and know that you can handle yourself even in difficult situations. So, you can help your students develop a strong resilience by teaching them some coping mechanisms to calm themselves under overwhelming situations. Belly breathing, focusing on the sounds that are happening around us, and feeling deeply are some simple coping mechanisms that help us calm our nervous system under challenging situations. Furthermore, you can watch YouTube videos to learn about belly breathing and then you can teach this calming technique to your students.

The pandemic has taught us that we should help children develop a strong resilience right from their childhood. It is only in the presence of a strong resilience that they can face any challenges that life throws at them and emerge victoriously. Furthermore, as teachers, we can help our students cultivate a strong resilience through the different ways mentioned above. Now, I wish you all the best, and may your efforts to help your students develop a strong resilience bear fruits.

An ardent writer, Jessica Robinson, works for ‘The Speaking Polymath’. She uses this platform to weave her magical words into powerful strands of content and share with her readers.

We welcome you to join the Richard James Rogers online community! Join us on Facebook and Twitter for regular updates, giveaways of Richard’s books, special offers, upcoming events and news. 

5 Smart Benefits of Using The Pomodoro Technique in Teaching

richardjamesrogers.com is the official blog of Richard James Rogers: high school Science teacher and award-winning author of The Quick Guide to Classroom Management. This blog post is illustrated by Pop Sutthiya Lertyongphati.

Have you heard of the Pomodoro Technique, and how it can be applied to your lessons? I hadn’t – that is until I invited Jessica Robinson, educational writer at The Speaking Polymath, to write this excellent blog post for us today. Enjoy, because you’re in for a treat!

I am of the strong belief that time management is complementary to classroom management. Having said that, teachers have to be on the top of their time management game at all times. I am of the opinion that how we, teachers, manage classroom time directly correlates with our students’ success. This is why a lot of educators are interested in exploring various time management tips for teachers. Besides, education is evolving at a swift pace in this digital age. This paradigm shift calls for greater innovation and outside-the-box thinking on the part of teachers.

In the ultimate sense, the success of every time management strategy depends on how well a teacher executes it. I have seen some of the simplest techniques producing great outcomes because of meticulous execution. On the other hand, I have seen some of the most popular classroom management tactics failing in the absence of planning and implementation. However, the bottom line is that we need to keep discovering new ideas for classroom management. Also, these ideas have to be relevant to the new dynamics of education and remote learning.

One excellent classroom management strategy I have discovered is the Pomodoro Technique. The Pomodoro Technique is basically a time management technique. But like I mentioned above, smart time management facilitates intelligible classroom management. The application of this strategy in teaching is still unexplored to a great extent. It is rather a strategy that finds greater application in the corporate world. That does not mean we cannot use it in teaching!

I have been using this technique in teaching for more than a year now. What is noteworthy is that it has always inspired great outcomes. This is an innovative approach in teaching that I would recommend to all teachers. Do you struggle to manage your time and drive positive changes in the classroom? If you do, this outside-the-box technique can be the perfect solution. There are multifaceted benefits of using the Pomodoro Technique for teachers as well as students. Before I shed light on that, it is vital that we understand what Pomodoro Technique is and how it works.

What is the Pomodoro Technique of time management?

Let me make it clear that the Pomodoro Technique is not an innovation of the contemporary world. In fact, this methodology of time management was discovered in the 1980s by Francesco Cirillo. The crux of this methodology lies in breaking down work or tasks into short bursts of 25 minutes each. These spans of 25 minutes are separated by short breaks of 5 minutes. To use it to the best effect, a timer is used to keep track of time. Are you thinking about how this technique is beneficial for teachers? Let us find out how it can be a breakthrough addition to your teaching and classroom management strategies.

Advantages of using the Pomodoro Technique in teaching

#1: It can facilitate short-term goals in the classroom

As I see it, the short goals of classroom management are of utmost importance. The Pomodoro Technique gives you the perfect opportunity to set short-term goals in the classroom. In fact, you can set one goal each for every Pomodoro session. In this way, one classroom session can be divided into multiple short-term goals. 

These goals can relate to classroom management or academic objectives for students. In this way, the culmination of short-term goals can lead to the efficient accomplishment of larger objectives of classroom management. It can make learning more wholesome for students. Furthermore, it can help you in drawing more productivity in your teaching. I personally feel that this technique incredibly adds to my work efficiency. I am sure it will work wonders for you as well. Worth a try for sure!

#2: It promotes better student engagement

It is critical for teachers to evolve student engagement and active learning strategies in a continuous manner. Teachers need to look for creative ideas to keep students engaged, be it in remote learning or a traditional classroom. Having said that, I think the Pomodoro Technique is quite a creative way of driving high student engagement.

The first reason why it is a great way to engage students is that it does not make students feel worn out. They know they will get a short break after a twenty-five-minute span. Hence, they can dedicate complete diligence and motivation to their learning in those twenty-five minutes. It helps them sustain their learning motivation more effectively. Moreover, in those short breaks between consecutive Pomodoro sessions, you can initiate interactive classroom discussions. These discussions can be about anything and everything in the world. In fact, these discussions can be a great opportunity for students to express themselves and rejuvenate their minds. Also, these breaks can be utilized for feedback sharing and clearing doubts to further add to student engagement.

#3: It paves the way for better stress management

Teaching is a stressful and draining job which is the reason why this profession has high turnover. As much as we love to teach students, be a part of their journeys, and lead them to success, stress keeps pulling us down. In my experience, teachers are as successful as their stress management skills. For me, it is a prerequisite for all teachers. When teachers are not able to manage their stress, they face burnout situations. More than the impacts on their careers, it affects students’ learning as teachers begin to disengage.

The best thing about the Pomodoro Technique is that it has a great scope for teachers’ stress management as well. In the short breaks between two Pomodoro sessions, teachers can relax and feel at ease. Short sessions of twenty-five minutes with a five-minute break after each session is a fair deal, isn’t it? Of course, long teaching sessions and a typical workday can make us feel exhausted and stressed. But doing it the Pomodoro way is a great escape from stressful and burnout situations. It will give you enough breaks to remain sane and reboot before the next session. It will help you in keeping the classroom environment positive and help you manage workload better. Having said that, it can prove to be an amazing stress management tip for teachers. 

#4: It can be a perfect time management model for students

By using the Pomodoro Technique for classroom management, teachers can model a great time management strategy for students. The students can learn about the working of this technique and implement it in their homework sessions or while preparing for exams. In this way, students can meet their learning objectives better and make classroom management easier for teachers.

I have seen students take a lot of interest in this technique. They feel that it is a perfect way to support their learning objectives. Also, it can help them to keep mental or physical fatigue at bay. Effective time management and stress management are as vital for students as for teachers. So, when your students learn this effective technique from you, they can use it to their advantage. The Pomodoro Technique can be a great way for students to enhance their productivity, academic results, and time management skills.

#5: It assists in improvised classroom planning

With the Pomodoro Technique, you can plan your classroom sessions in a better way. You can break down the lesson plans into smaller sessions to inspire maximum concentration among students. I feel that this technique has empowered me to plan classroom sessions and activities in a much smarter way. I can break down a big lesson into smaller bursts using the Pomodoro Technique. This ensures that students learn in an effective and conducive way. Otherwise, long sessions may be exhausting for them with the little accomplishment of the learning objectives.

This is why I suggest that this is a great way to facilitate improvised classroom planning. Teachers can plan the curriculum in an organized manner. Also, by breaking down a classroom session into small spells, a teacher can plan for adding various learning dimensions. You can make every classroom session far more worthwhile with this excellent technique from the 1980s.

Can you think of any more ways in which the Pomodoro Technique can be added to teaching proficiency? Teaching is the right balance of effective time management and also patience. For me, the significance of patience in teaching is immense. In the new age of digital learning, you have to keep adding diverse teaching methodologies to your capabilities. But time management and patience will always be the foundation of excelling in teaching. Given that, the Pomodoro Technique can be a vital and valuable addition to your teaching style. With this technique, you can drive positive outcomes in your career as well as for your students.

An ardent writer, Jessica Robinson, works for ‘The Speaking Polymath’. She uses this platform to weave her magical words into powerful strands of content and share with her readers.

We welcome you to join the Richard James Rogers online community! Join us on Facebook and Twitter for regular updates, giveaways of Richard’s books, special offers, upcoming events and news. 

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Using props in the ESL classroom to keep your students engaged

Illustrated by Pop Sutthiya Lertyongphati.

Sometimes, the simplest of materials can offer the greatest opportunities for creative exploration. This week, I’ve invited Rose-Anne Turner of Destination TEFL to share her expert tips on how to use everyday items as stimulating props within your lessons.

In our last blog post, we discussed using technology in the classroom to engage your students. Oftentimes, this just isn’t possible, and we need to look at other low cost and easy to source props for the classroom that not only get the students involved, but create a fun learning environment for the teacher and students.

Here we have a few suggestions that you can easily pick up in a $1 store (20 baht shop for those of you in Thailand!) and how to use them successfully in the classroom.

Balls: The options are endless here! Those cheap plastic ball-pit balls can be used for so many different games. They can also be used as a way to pair or group students for groupwork (put the coloured balls in a black plastic bag, the students pull out a ball and join the group with the same colour balls). You can also use a ball to throw at a ‘dart board’ drawn on the whiteboard to allocate points to questions answered correctly. The games for using balls in the classroom are endless! Just make sure to use lightweight ones so you don’t end up with broken windows…

Plastic fly swotters: This is one of our all-time favourite props at Destination TEFL. A great go-to game for a consolidation activity is ‘slam’. The teacher splits the class into two teams and calls up two students at a time to the board, one from each team. Flashcards with images from the words learnt in the lesson are stuck to the board (lower level students, just 2 words to choose from, higher level, you can put up more options). When the teacher calls out the word, the two students have to ‘slam’ the correct flashcard. The one who slams the correct card first is the winner and gets a point for their team. For more advanced students, this could be changed into a grammar exercise: put parts of speech words to the board such as noun, proposition etc. Call out a word and the student who slams the correct part of speech is the winner. We have had equal success with slam across all age levels, from kindergarten to adult lessons. Warning: you’ll need a pacemaker activity to calm down the class afterwards as the noise and excitement level can become quite high!

Funny hats and glasses or puppets: Sometimes students are shy to speak. If they take on another ‘persona’ in the form of a puppet or dress up, then it can encourage them to participate in a fun way with a speaking activity, as they are not being themselves but the character of the puppet or prop.

Stickers or ink stamps: children respond well to the positive reinforcement of receiving a ‘reward’ for correct work or even just participation. They love being able to show their parents a sticker of praise in their workbook or even on their hand. TIP: stickers can get expensive for a teacher, but a rubber stamp with an inkpad is a cheap way of rewarding students.

“An AWESOME book!”

Dice: These can be used in so many ways. Here are a few examples: Use it for dividing students into groups – you land on a 4 and you divide the class into groups of 4. Or students roll the dice and line up in order of the number they rolled. When answering questions, students roll the dice to determine which question to answer. Think of 6 topics, students roll the dice to determine which topic they will speak on for quick oral practice.

Scrabble tiles: Again, the opportunities to use this simple prop are endless. Use them to line up students (in alphabetical or reverse alphabetical order) after the students pick a tile from a bag. Use them to group students according to letters selected, or in groups according to vowel and consonant. Select a category (perhaps topics you have recently covered in class) and students take turn to draw letters and name a word from the category which starts with that letter (you can remove any letters that won’t work for a topic). Let teams draw 10 letters each, and they should come up with as many English words with those letters in a specific time.

Beanbag or soft toy: Use this to throw to the students to determine who will be next in answering a question or participating in the task. Rather than the teacher always being the one to throw the toy, give them a chance to throw it to the next student after answering the question or drilling the word. This keeps them on their toes as they don’t know who will be called on next, as you are not going by order of seating.

Ball of string: a length of string or rope can be used in so many ways. Use it to line up students as a timeline to teach tenses (they can peg words to the string in order of tense). Use it as a ‘washing line’ activity. Students pick the words of a sentence out of a bag and need to peg it to the line in the correct word order. Have two washing lines and two teams so that there’s a winning team based on time and accuracy. 

Remember that for all games, there MUST be a purpose. The purpose for the teacher is for the students to learn and practice the language by playing the consolidation activity or production game. The purpose for the student is to complete the task or win the game. A game or activity that has no outcome or result (usually in the form of a winner) will not be as engaging for your students. Do keep games and outcomes age appropriate. For example, at kindergarten level, we don’t want to focus on winning quite as much, with participation being the main goal at that level.

What props do you use in your ESL classroom?

Guest blog written for Richard James Rogers by Rose-Anne Turner – Destination TEFL

We welcome you to join the Richard James Rogers online community! Join us on Facebook and Twitter for regular updates, giveaways of Richard’s books, special offers, upcoming events and news. 

Using Technology in Your ESL Classroom

It’s a common known fact that the youth of today are naturally drawn to technology and we are far more likely to hold their attention by using it, rather than just traditional teaching methods. We can argue the point about the ill effects of too much ‘screen time’ until the cows come home – but perhaps a better saying would be ‘if you can’t beat them, join them!. This week, I’ve invited Rose-Anne Turner at Destination TEFL to share her tips for using technology in the ESL classroom.

Not all teachers will be lucky enough to teach in schools that have access to technology, but if you do, use it! Perhaps only the teacher has access (TV, projector, interactive whiteboard) or perhaps the entire class has access (tablets, computers, phones). Either way, if you can, do try to incorporate technology into your lessons, as you will be connecting with your students on their level – and perhaps learn a thing or two yourself. Another good reason to add tech to your teaching skills is because at any moment, classes may need to go virtual due to the pandemic, and you’ll then be best prepared to present interactive and engaging lessons to your tech savvy students.

Here are some ideas on how to use technology in the ESL classroom:

  • If all your students have access to a device, we highly recommend using Google Classroom as a great way to hand information and assignments to your students and for them to hand back completed tasks. This is a FREE resource.
  • AnswerGarden is a new minimalistic feedback tool. Use it for real time audience participation, online brainstorming and classroom feedback. This free resource has several different users, including classroom, conference and corporate audiences, creative teams, online crowds, and mind-mappers.
  • Scribbl is an online version of Pictionary, which is a great way to get your students speaking as they guess what is being drawn online by a classmate.
  • Educaplay is a great free online platform for teachers to make quizzes, word searches, matching columns, crossword puzzles and more.
  • If only the teacher has access to a TV or projector, then using short and simple films, YouTube videos, etc. will engage your students and you could use this as listening and comprehension exercise. If you don’t have access to a TV, then an audio played from your phone with a blue tooth speaker would be a good compromise. Podcasts can work for this too. It’s good for students to hear other voices and accents, and not just that of their teacher.
  • Most students have access to a phone, and can download the free Memrise app. It offers several languages including of course, English, and students can go up in levels as they progress with their language skills, challenge each other and hear the language spoken by native speakers with different accents. There is a paid version, but the free version offers more than enough to get them going.
  • ePals is an online version of the old-school pen pals we had as kids. This is a great way for students to practice their English with another ESL student somewhere else in the world. Students can select an ePal of a similar age and level.
  • Use free blogging sites for your higher level students to practice their writing skills. Blog settings can be set to private where only those with a password can access it, for instance the teacher and their classmates. Classmates can utilise the comments section of the blog.
  • In the same way, the teacher could connect with another ESL class, perhaps in another country and have the students chat to other students over Skype, Zoom or other video chat platforms to practice their speaking skills.
  • Khan Academy is a fantastic free learning platform (financed by donations) with login options at both student and teacher level. Students can learn and progress and teachers can monitor their progress. If you are teaching more than just English, Khan Academy also covers many other subjects including mathematics, science, humanities, coding, SAT and other test preparation, and more. It’s very interactive, and has video tutorials, exercises and more.
  • Try using interactive games like Kahoot, where students use their phones to log in and answer questions under timed conditions. Questions appear on the classroom TV, or whiteboard and scores are then displayed on a screen. You’ll find hundreds of quizzes on the site, many aimed at ESL learners or you can even create your own.

The COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated why online and virtual education should be an essential part of teaching and learning. By integrating technology into existing curricula, as opposed to using it solely as a crisis-management tool, teachers can embrace online learning as a powerful educational tool. Using technology and online learning platforms in the classroom can not only increase student engagement, but also help teachers improve their lesson plans, and facilitate personalised learning. At the same time, you are preparing your students for 21st-century skills in the workplace. If you are not actively using technology in your classroom, you are going to be left behind.

Do you have any classroom technology tips to share?

Guest blog written for Richard Rogers by Rose-Anne Turner – Destination TEFL

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