Review activities | Ideas from Twitter

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Ever since Kamila tweeted about this activity, I’ve been wanting to collect activity ideas people share on Twitter because I find that liking or a retweeting stuff like this doesn’t always translate to revisiting or using it subsequently. What I particularly love about these activities is their simplicity – the picture says it all!

And then thanks to the utterly prolific Pete Sanderson (@LessonToolbox), I found a lot of review activities shared by teachers of other subjects such as history, science and Spanish. I can easily see myself adapting some of these ideas for both my learners as well as for teacher training workshops. There are literally hundreds of tweets with activity ideas but I’ve selected a few that I thought were interesting. Don’t miss place mats for CPD – fair warning – you’ll have to scroll down quite a bit until you get to it.

This one’s not just a plain vanilla review activity, it’s also a metacognitive exercise where students have to decide what they need to focus on.

This twist on Scrabble could lend itself to vocabulary, receptive skills tasks and for reviewing content knowledge such as information about teaching approaches.

Here’s another way of presenting it:

Along with the template:

Here’s a more intensive review activity inspired by Scrabble:

I love this blob activity. It would work well for speaking but it might also be an interesting reflection exercise.

This one seems similar to tasks I’ve seen in a lot of writing worksheets but the old newspaper cutout’s given me some ideas.

Speak like a historian – this is brilliant – Speak like a global consultant, speak like a teacher, speak like a researcher, speak like someone at B2?! I’m going to be using this one a lot!

Another version of speak like a historian:

This has obviously been very popular with history teachers – here’s another:

A more intensive activity – the instructions are given at the top of the worksheet.

I think the creators of this activity intended summary pyramids to be worksheet-based but I am going to be using Cusinenaire rods to bring this to life.

Question balloons might require a lot of prep but it could also be a lot of fun.

Place mats for prompting CPD-related reflection for teachers – this one’s just amazeballs! I can’t wait to try it out.

A simple graphic organiser activity – I’m not completely sure if the learner is also required to create some kind of connection between the different pieces of information s/he writes into the squares.

This school’s Twitter account is the friggin motherload of activities. I am obsessed with verb bugs – can’t wait to try it out with English collocations.

This mingling activity seems more familiar – I like the idea of ‘stealing’ a card and I think my learners will too.

This one’s a great way of encouraging learners to take more ownership for what happens in the classroom as well as their own learning.

I haven’t done linking hexagons in ages – I’m going to try to sneak it in for some vocabulary work.

I don’t know where I’d be able to use this but it looks really neat.

🙂 Head in a hole!

Finally, a fun emoji review:

I set out to catalogue just a few but I’ve ended up with quite a lot and I’ve only been through tweets from a few accounts since the start of this year. I think I’m going to do this as a regular exercise. I’ve got a lot more practical ideas from these tweets than I have from many ELT activity books.

Image attribution: Photo by on Unsplash


Kialo for the classroom | edtech

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I hate ads on Twitter but then again I wouldn’t have got to know about Kialo were it not for their pushy advertising. You’ve probably seen them (and perhaps dismissed them as well). Kialo claims to be a civilised alternative to Twitter; its tagline is ’empowering reason’. Well that remains to be seen.

But it’s got some features that immediately lend themselves to classroom application.

This is how it works. There are a number of questions (not sure if the existing ones are supplied by the platform or by users but you can start your own discussion) which users can respond to by contributing pros and cons like this topical one on gun control in the US.

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When you click on the plus sign next to Pros or Cons, you get to enter your own claim in a box. The interesting feature here is that Kialo checks for duplicate claims that have already been introduced into this argument. Notice the strategic use of words like ‘claim’ and ‘suggest’. Kialo 2.png

You can vote on claims and also add comments. As the argument expands, users may generate pros and cons for pros and cons and as you navigate the ‘hierachy’ of the argument, it starts branching. For example, This argument on veganism has branched off into off into a related but separate topic.

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Another interesting feature is that all new discussions are private by default – so you can invite users using their Kialo usernames or email IDs to participate in the discussion. You can also, of course, make the discussion public.

I train trainers/teachers who run exam preparatory classes with a focus on IELTS – I can see some ways of using this tool for activities that introduce learners to skills required for Part 2 of the writing section. It has however broader application at the secondary and tertiary levels and may be useful in an EAP context.

Here are some ideas I noted down:

  • Set up a question as a private discussion and invite students to contribute to it as homework. Get them to respond to the claims of their peers.
  • Get learners to ask a new question as a public discussion on Kialo, observe how the argument evolves over the course of a week or two weeks, and then report back either in an oral presentation or in a written report/summary.
  • Ask learners to study the pros and cons in an existing argument on Kialo and write an argumentative essay. They could also focus on only the pros or the cons and write a persuasive piece.
  • Get learners to follow the links supplied by contributors and fact check the reliability of sources.
  • Run a mini debate, get learners to note down key points on the board and then ask them to review an existing argument on Kialo and see if these points have already been covered and what sort of counter-arguments and evidence has been suggested. This could become a speaking-to-reading-to-speaking lesson.
  • Ask learners to skim the pros and cons in an argument and report back on the prevailing view if there is one and how they came to this conclusion.
  • Get learners to make educated guesses about what claims might have been made in response to a question or a pro or con that sits under it.

The discussions currently hosted on Kialo are focused on topics relevant to the US. However as more users join, this might change.

#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.

#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 to think about why he posed it as a question. There’s an also 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