In all the excitement leading up to and during the IATEFL conference, one thing that almost passed me by was the fact that my little blog was chosen as the TEFL.net websites of the month. For those of you who don’t know, TEFL.net is one of the longest running and best sites in our profession. Despite the fact that they’ve been running a ‘best of’ monthly section since 2008, they don’t give away the award lightly. As a consequence, it’s something of an honor to have been chosen.
While I admit this post is a blatant opportunity to blow my own trumpet, this seems like too good an opportunity to miss to showcase ten of my favourite TEFL.net websites of the month from down the years. Here, then, is my pick of the best of the best:
1. ELTJam (February, 2014)
If you’re interested in trends, apps, technology, and changes in ELT publishing, you’ll find up-to-date information on eltjam. This blog is a side project of the eltjamjar team. The UK-based team includes Nick Robinson, Laurie Harrison, and Tim Gifford, an innovative group of English language material developers who recently created their own ELT publishing solutions company.
The eltjam blog features reviews about educational articles, apps, and tech, as well as interviews and guest posts about innovation and experimentation in ELT publishing.
2. The Future of Education (November, 2013)
The Future of Education is an online community for educators interested in professional development and connected learning. This Ning network was created by Steve Hargadon, who has been described as “The Oprah of Education”. Click on the Interviews tab to find links to hundreds of interviews to inspire your teaching.
Recorded sessions from the recent Reform Symposium Conference – including a talk from yours truly – are available from the RSCON tab on the homepage. The Reform Symposium features many sessions that are specifically geared towards English language teachers. You can also register to create your own profile. Members can connect with each other by sharing posts, videos, photos, and information about their presentations.
3. ELT Teacher 2 Writer (TEFL.net Site Award September 2013)
Most English language teachers create a lot of their own materials. After teaching English for a number of years, many teachers start to wonder if there is anything they can do with all of the worksheets and materials they have created. ELT Teacher 2 Writer (T2W) offers a number of resources for teachers who are interested in writing and publishing materials.
On T2W, teachers can add their name and work experience to a free database where ELT publishers come to do targeted searches. There are also a number of courses that teachers can take to learn about the craft of writing ELT materials. The modules are published as downloadable eBooks, written by experienced ELT writers. You will also find useful tools and links for ELT writers, including several first-person accounts from some of the most experienced ELT writers on how they got their first break.
4. Grammar.net (June, 2013)
If you have visual learners in your classes, Grammar.net publishes free grammar review infographics that you can use in your teaching. You can share the infographics in your social media communities or school blogs, or email the links to your students. Be sure to give credit to Grammar.net each time you share one of their infographics. You can also download high resolution versions of the posters and print them for your classroom walls, doors, and billboards. Each infographic comes with a detailed explanation that will help refresh your memory about English language rules.
If you are uncomfortable with your own grammar, you may also want to experiment with Grammar.net’s Grammar Checker. The Grammar Checker will give you some handy tips and suggestions for cleaning up your own writing. You can try the Grammar Checker by copying and pasting some text into the text box on the top of Grammar.net’s homepage. If you like the Grammar Checker, you can download it for free. Keep in mind that the Grammar Checker is automated and doesn’t always give the best advice!
5. Demand High ELT (February 2013)
The concept of “Demand High,” which has been defined as an idea that focuses on moment-by-moment learning, was coined by Adrian Underhill and Jim Scrivener, two experienced teacher trainers in the ELT field. Their blog “Demand High ELT” explores the idea of “deep learning,” and challenges teachers to find new ways to optimize learning in the classroom. Scrivener and Underhill are interested in discovering how teachers can help learners stretch their understanding and use of the English language.
By demanding a bit more from learners at key moments, and by reflecting on their own teaching rituals and attitudes, ELTers may be able to help students achieve higher skills and goals. The Demand High site asks teachers to think about questions like this: “What is the minimum tweak necessary at any point in any lesson to shift the activity sideways into the “challenge zone”?” The blog features articles, teaching ideas, observation task worksheets, and video clips that can help teachers explore and even contribute to the development of “Demand High” in ELT.
6. ELT-resourceful (October, 2012)
ELT materials writer and teacher trainer Rachael Roberts shares her ideas, tips, and thoughts related to teaching and writing on her website and blog. Rachael – sadly I didn’t get to say hi to you at IATEFL last week – has specialized in EAP, ESOL, and IELTS, and is the author of a number of coursebooks for teaching English. She also gives Webinars for some of the large ELT publishers. In her elt-resourceful blog, Rachael explores several different topics that material writers and teachers are interested in, including exploiting authentic materials for listening and reading practice.
She often offers ideas on different ways to use and adapt a textbook, and her blog feels like a good set of teacher’s notes. If you feel stuck in your methods, Rachael’s ideas may help you try a new approach. She also responds to questions in her comment section.
7. Chia Suan Chong (August, 2012)
Some of the best TEFL sites for professional development these days are actually blogs. Chia Suan Chong, an English language teacher and teacher trainer in London (at the time of winning the award), tackles some of the most interesting topics in the ELT industry. Her recent blog series “The Devil’s Advocate” examines some of the recent controversies. Chia, the DA, invites conference speakers, textbook writers, and other bloggers to debate topics such as learning styles, technology, and most recently ESP. Her popular series on Dogme resulted in a Teach-Off with her DOS, which was followed closely by English language teachers around the world.
Chia – who I did get to say hi to at IATEFL last week – also comments on the conferences that she attends, and shares valuable material from her own talks, which often focus on ELF. In addition to her own blog she writes for ELT Knowledge.
8. Telescopic text (April, 2012)
If your students are hesitant to write, try asking them to write one basic sentence, such as “I made tea.” Telescopic Text is a fun tool for learners to practice expanding their writing. After they write a basic sentence, they insert new words or phrases piece by piece. They can expand the sentence by adding adjectives, adverbs, and even full phrases. When one sentence is stretched as long as it can be, they can add another sentence.
Teachers who have a screen and Internet access can use this tool to demonstrate how to expand a sentence with modifiers, conjunctions, and phrases. Fold the sentence back up, and then click each grey spot to unfold it again. A classroom can also write a collaborative story or recount using this tool. It is a good idea to create a free account so that you can save and share your text. Invite your students to create accounts as well. Click on Write to get started.
This website by English language teacher Kieran Donaghy promotes the use of film in the language learning classroom. The site provides full lesson plans centered on a variety of films and topics. Many of the lessons contain short films that are embedded right in the posts. The lessons are categorized by level and age appropriateness and include homework and follow up activities.
Kieran – who I was delighted to meet finally at IATEFL – has also included some useful links for teachers who want to find scripts, audio clips, and other film related sites. This site is clean, colorful and open for comments. Find out which lessons other teachers have enjoyed using with their English language learners, and be sure to check out the Film Words glossary!
10. Difference Between (September, 2011)
DifferenceBetween.net is a website full of short articles that you can use for reading practice in your English language classroom. Each article explores the difference between two similar subjects. Teachers may be interested in the articles in the Language category, such as the difference between “myth” and “legend” or the difference between an “idiom” and an “expression”.
There are also plenty of topic-based readings that your students may enjoy reading about, such as the difference between “HTML” and “FBML” or the difference between “plantains” and “bananas”. These are not level based readings, but your students who are practicing for TOEIC or TOEFL may find them useful because they are written in a similar format to test material they will find. Each reading is about 600 words in length and comes with a short summary. Before sharing a print out of a reading, ask your class the simple question: What’s the difference between … and …?