#EdLitChat: a virtual book club for educators


I’m a voracious reader but I often find myself shying away from books related to education, ELT, learning research and the like. Even when I have them on my Kindle or on my bookshelf, I seem to gravitate towards a travelogue or space opera rather than reading something that might build breadth and depth of knowledge across different aspects of education. I realise that books are a wonderful and frequently ignored approach to professional development and I’ve been reflecting on how I could remedy my somewhat lackadaisical attitude towards them.

#EdLitChat, obviously modeled on the great #ELTchat, is an initiative that some peers and I have started to motivate each other to read books about our field. All of us have a background in ELT but work in teacher development and education research, and see this as an opportunity to read new and seminal books on education, build our PLN, share experiences and reflect collaboratively on what we’ve read.

Each month, we’ll read one book and come together on Facebook or Twitter to discuss it on the last Sunday of the month at 4 pm India time (check what time it is where you are). I’d like to make the group as inclusive as possible so we’ll have lots of free publications (have a look at my post on where to get free books). We’re starting with one of these free books, Effective Learning in Classrooms by Chris Watkins, Eileen Carnell and Caroline Lodge.

I’d like to invite teachers and education professionals from any background to come read with us. You can stay updated with #EdLitChat through any or all of the following platforms based on whatever you tend to use:

I’ll basically be repeating the same information across the three but the wiki will also hopefully host additional content such as chat summaries and book reviews. I’d love to hear your suggestions for books we could read in upcoming months.

Upcoming webinars for ELT educators | Mar & Apr 2018

Upcoming ELT webinars

Here’s a round-up of webinars scheduled over the next two months. I’ve been told that I neglect webinars provided by North American platforms although I’ve always included ones from Tutela – I’m going to try to cast my net a bit more widely but do let me know if I’ve missed any.

Academic skills and EAP

Approaches and techniques

Business English 



Critical thinking 

Inclusive education




Speaking skills

Teacher identity



Young learners


The following webinars are from a series organised by International House. Many thanks to Sandy Millin for sharing the link.

Other topics

Shelly Terrell runs a webinar every Friday at 4 pm Eastern time. The topics are usually announced through this Twitter account. More details here.

Landshark | A multilingual Instagram activity

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One of my favourite Instagram accounts is @mumbaipaused. He normally posts pictures of street life in the city of which he has a unique perspective, but at times he also collaborates with artists on thought provoking illustrations. This activity is designed around one of these illustrations that @mumbaipaused posted late last year and is an attempt to fulfill my recent commitment to integrate more multilingual practices into my  classroom.

View this post on Instagram

#FridayRelease with @urankaramol

A post shared by Mumbai Paused (@mumbaipaused) on


  • Explore different future forms in the interrogative (as well as the rhetorical function for more advanced learners)
  • Introduce the expression ‘land shark’
  • Develop oral fluency in the context of land grabs/over-development/environment/social media advocacy and encourage learners to share their own experiences with these issues.


  • Depending on resource constraints in your teaching context, you could use the ‘save to collection’ feature to bookmark the image in Instagram and display it to students using your phone/tablet. You could also show them the image by accessing the URL and displaying the image on a computer or a projector. If you teach older students who have their own devices, you could give them a QR code or a shortened URL so they can access the image through their own Instagram accounts.


  • Display the picture and ask the learners to think about how they would say this Hindi question “Aur kitna kayega Mumbai?” in English. Ask them to write their translations down and compare it with a partner.
  • Get them to then compare their translations to these – which one is theirs closest to?

How much more will you eat, Mumbai?

How much more are you going to eat, Mumbai?

How much more are you eating, Mumbai?

How much more would you eat, Mumbai?

  • For more advanced learners, you could explore the rhetorical function by asking if @mumbaipaused was looking for an answer to this question and getting them to think about why he posed it as a question. There’s also an allusion to a Bollywood movie which learners may recognise.
  • Encourage students to work in small groups to explore the differences in meaning and form. Get them to think about what @mumbaipaused was trying to convey in Hindi. You may need to do a whole class focus on meaning/form for the target forms based on responses at this stage.
  • Ask students to now focus on the actual illustration and guess the idiomatic expression it represents. Elicit land shark and ask students if they can think of a parallel phrase for it in Marathi, Gujarati, Konkani, Tulu (or any other home language). In the North of India, there’s an interesting expression:  भू माफिया (/bhu mɑːfjɑ:/) which combines the Hindi word for earth and mafia.
  • Students now work in small groups to discuss what they know about land sharks – have their families or friends been affected by land sharks? (This might strike you as an odd question but it’s sadly all too common an occurrence).
  • Ask students to think about what @mumbaipaused was trying to draw attention to in his Instagram post – point out the geo-location – ‘Aarey Forest’. If they’re from around Bombay, they might know the controversy over the felling of a part of the forest for metro construction. If they don’t know about it, tell them about it and ask them if something similar has happened in their city or town. This can segue into a discussion on any topic that interests the learners: the cost of development, political cartoons, using social media for advocacy, disappearing urban birds/trees etc.


  • If students have their own devices, ask them to create Instagram accounts if they’re not already on the app and post a picture connected to the discussion that shows how the environment or people are being affected by indiscriminate development (or whatever they ended up talking about). Get them to use two rhetorical questions in the caption that use one of the forms explored in the lesson: one in English and the other in their home language (in the Roman script or in their own script – whatever works). This can become a nice show and tell activity for a subsequent lesson.

Now I know this activity is perhaps targeted at an Indian audience (or more specifically one’s that familiar with Hindi). Nonetheless, I think you could use it as a frame to develop activities using languages spoken in your own classroom – particularly if you can find Instagrammers in your city who use the platform to make a social comment about current events in local languages. Let me know how it goes! 


Video for your Business English Classes | Upcoming webinar

I’m going to be coordinating an event for ELT@I BESIG which is a new association that aims to build a community of practice of Business English and ESP practitioners in India.  This is the third webinar in a series and this time round, we have Vicki Hollett who is well known for her YouTube channel and her wry sense of humour.  She’s going to be talking about using video in Business English classes.

The webinar is on Saturday March 3 at 1830 India time. You can register using this link.

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If you haven’t heard of Vicki before, this video may be a good introduction 🙂

Incorporating multilingual approaches: reflections


A couple of weekends ago, I was at the AINET conference in Bombay where Jason Anderson did a workshop on trans-languaging (which is a bit trendy in India at the moment). Unfortunately, he ran out of time and couldn’t really make it past the first section of his presentation. A week later, I attended a session with Jemima Hughes from the British Council who presented some practical ideas for facilitating the multilingual classroom.

Here’s a summary of ideas I gleaned these two sessions.

Ideas from Jemima’s presentation:

  • Get students to make an alphabet chart of their L1 script.
  • Greet students in their home languages and encourage them to greet each other using their home languages.
  • Label different things in the classroom in English and in the students’ home languages using different coloured pens. Depending on the students’ level, the teacher could assign this to them as an activity.
  • Establish a multilingual word wall with frequently used words and expressions from the students’ L1 with English equivalents. Encourage students to contribute regularly to this wall.
  • Create a collection of multilingual books for your classroom. (Pratham  Books have a fantastic collection of free digital books in English and a variety of Indian and non-Indian languages)

Ideas from Jason’s workshop:

  • Ask students to bring things to class that have some cultural significance to them and get them to talk about these items in any language they like. Then have them create a text or give a brief presentation in English.
  • Students work in pairs to write five sentences on a topic you assign in a shared familiar language (but not English). They share these sentences with others students. In a subsequent lesson, the procedure is repeated but in English. In the next lesson, students try to recall the sentences in English without referring to their notes.
  • An interesting idea sourced from NCERT involves presenting students with parallel texts which aren’t translations but convey a similar meaning or similar language activity.
  • Use L1 to check understanding.
  • Set short translation tasks – for homework, students translate a text from English and then in class they work with a partner to reconstruct the text in English using only the translation.
  • Put new words into a vocabulary box – put the English word on one side and get students to write translations in their home languages on the other side.
  • Get students to create bilingual posters. For example a human body with labels for parts of the body on cards that can be stuck on the poster – English words on side and L1 translation on the back.

Jason also presented some interesting findings on L1 use in India:

Recent research on L1 use in Indian contexts

Rahman (2013): 65% of 25 teachers reported using Assamese ‘frequently’. Why? To explain concepts (65%); to save time (15%); to engage ss. (10%); and because ss. demand it (10%). 95% of ss. said they needed help of Assamese in English classes.

Chimarala (2017): 95% of 112 teachers use other languages. 71% allow students to use them. Why? To explain concepts and difficult words (69%); to reprimand or bond with ss. (11%); to check comprehension (11%).

Durairajan (2017): summarises esp. PhD studies (1981-2017): ‘These varied growths, mostly ‘small gains’ … may not be statistically significant but – in terms of pedagogic implications and student growth and feeling of confidence – nearly exponential.’

When he asked participants at the workshop whether they thought national policy permitted or discouraged the use of L1, it was surprising to see that most of the teachers present thought that the state prescribed restrictions on L1 use. While this is apparently the case in countries like Ghana, education policy in India strongly endorses the use of home and shared languages. Teachers, however, seem to either approach L1 use with some guilt or as a necessary evil.

I’ve observed teachers using L1 or shared languages in the English classroom sometimes in purposeful and skillful ways, and at other times in a manner that’s crude and pointless. Inconsistent implemention aside, I see the benefits of using learners’ home languages strategically as a resource in the classroom. This is particularly critical in a multilingual country like India. Jemima said something very poignant about teachers often minimising students’ home languages and impoverishing their identity and as the demand for English as the Medium of Instruction (EMI) schools expands, the potential for marginalising students from different linguistic backgrounds will also grow.

So the question I have to ask myself is what stage of development am I at in making multilingual approaches a part of my teaching practice? The challenge I face is that I’m so conditioned to avoid L1 that while I see the benefits of using L1, I’m not able to embrace them. This is not to say that I don’t use L1 but I mostly use it for non-instructional purposes similar to some of the teachers in one of the studies Jason cited; to build rapport, establish a certain classroom dynamic, and very occasionally draw analogies. What complicates matters is that my work is now mostly with teachers, and when I am teaching actual learners, it’s often in the presence of other teachers who are observing me to see ‘best practices’. In these situations, I run an English-only classroom because I am very apprehensive about how L1 use might be received without appropriate contextualization. I’m not merely imagining this – I have heard a couple of observers pass a derisive remark in this respect.

This is an area that requires more reflection but I’m going to try and build my multilingual repertoire by designing some activities which will hopefully see the light of day on this blog soon.

Image attribution: Multilingual by pinelife –  Flickr – CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Free secondary images for Business English materials

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A secondary image is a picture that has a background. I prefer using primary images (which are basically cut-outs on a white or transparent background) in print materials but secondary images can look really good in presentations if used well. Here are some sites that provide free downloads of secondary images under a creative commons license. Note that some images under creative commons require attribution and others don’t – this is usually mentioned next to the image when you’re downloading it.

  • Unsplash: different collections including  Workspaces, It`s business time, Computers, phones & tech, Desk + Work, Work and collaboration, generally no attribution necessary but some individual images may require you to credit the owner under Creative Commons.
  • Pixabay: a huge variety of business images including primary and secondary images as well as illustrations. Some require attribution, others don’t.
  • Picjumbo: Some beautiful shots but the range is limited to hands and laptops on desks unfortunately. No attribution necessary.
  • Gratisography: a limited range but high quality whimsical images including the one I’ve used in this post. After accessing the site, search for key words like business, work, technology etc. No attribution necessary.
  • Pexels: corporate looking images. No attribution necessary.
  • Burst: a nice range of business images with no fuss downloads. A bias for hands on laptops though. No attribution necessary.
  • Stockvault: free business stock photos – quite a large collection with no attribution necessary for their free stock photo collection. You’ll need to be careful on this site though as you could easily end up on Shutterstock signing up for a paid account.
  • Stockphotos: a limited collection of pictures but includes some primary  images, attribution necessary.
  • RGBstock: scroll down to the business categories – there’s a combination of illustrations and photographs. The site requires registration. I have to admit that I’m not completely convinced that the people who’ve uploaded pictures to the site actually own them.
  • Freerangestock: you need to register to download. This is another site where you can quickly end up being asked for your credit card details on Shutterstock. No attributions required.

Do you have any favourite stock photo sites which have a free section for business-related images?

Where to get free ELT & education-related books … legally

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Many of the teachers I work with often ask me for recommendations for books to help them with lesson planning, activities, methodology, research and general professional development. I can suggest titles by the dozens but they are often not really affordable – a topic I’ve written about before.

So here’s a list of sites where you can get free ELT and education related books.

1. British Council’s Teacher Development Publications 

There are loads here but my favourites in no particular order include the following:

2. Chris Watkins’ publications

A veritable treasure trove. I could spend a year rummaging through all the free stuff and not even make a dent. Note that many of the files are articles or excerpts. However, the complete version of Effective Learning in Classrooms is available as a free download. This is a very accessible book for getting started on the journey to reflective teaching. I also found Classrooms as Learning Communities very inspiring.

3. ELT Council Publications 

This site currently hosts three free books: The image in English Language Teaching by (Ed. Kieran Donaghy and Daniel Xerri) -definitely worth a dekko, Creativity in English Language Teaching and The Learning ELT Professional.

4. Quick Cups of COCA by Mura Nava

If you’ve started using corpora, explore Mura’s useful little book on different searches you can run in the Corpus of Contemporary American English (CoCA). You can read my review of this book here.

5. Nik Peachey’s free digital books

Nik is always giving away free stuff. While the publications he’s well known for such as Digital Tools for Teachers aren’t free, he often offers huge discounts on these books and you might end up paying something between ₹50 and ₹100 which is an absolute steal for a book stuffed with practical ideas. You can get updates about discounts and free goodies from his Edtech & ELT Newsletter – to subscribe, go to his blog, scroll down and enter your email address in the box on the right that says “My free newsletter”.

6. 50 tips for ELT materials writers by ITDI (ed. Katherine Bilsborough)

7You are the coursebook – Lesson plans by Matt Purland

8. Phil Wade’s books on SmashWords – Lots of ESP and Business English booklets.

9. Free chapters by Zoltan Dornyei has written in a range of books. Dornyei is well known for his writing on motivation and dynamics in the language classroom.

10. Contributions to Creative Classrooms – a collection of activities put together by teachers who attended an ELTA-British Council workshop  in Serbia.

11. Enjoying books together: a guide for teachers on the use of books in the classroom by Joseph Nhan-O’Reilly – a beautifully illustrated book from the Rwandan Children’s Initiative

12. Publications from IATEFL’s Research Special Interest Group – I found Developing as an EFL Researcher: Stories from the field particularly interesting.

13. Articles by Jack C. Richard (suggested by Matthew Noble). While these aren’t books, there are excerpts and papers from books.

14. The Lexical Approach by Dave Ellis thanks to the University of Birmingham.

15. Books by Stephen Krashen including The Natural Approach, Second Language Acquisition and Second Language LearningPrinciples and Practice
in Second Language Acquisition and Summer Reading program and evidence. Many thanks to Marisa Constantinides for sharing these links.

16. Some free books on management and leadership from OReilly – potentially useful for Business English and ESP trainers. There are two titles – The secret behind great one-to-one meetings and Build to lead: how Lego bricks can make you a better leader, which might be interesting for a wider audience.

17. Teaching and Learning Languages: a guide is a free ebook funded by the Australian Department of Education.

18. Flipping the System is a free book from Routledge that explores ways of replacing top-down accountability with bottom-up support for teachers.

19. Getting started with Virtual Reality Guide by Monica Burns, the founder of  ClassTechTips.com

Suggestions for additions to my list are highly appreciated as long as they are related to ELT or education and of course legitimately free!

Image attribution: Free by Foomandoonian – Flickr – CC BY-NC-SA 2.0