Motivation in the 21st Century Classroom, a plenary by David Bradshaw

TESOL Greece Blog



This talk addresses the possibilities for changes in methodology offered by technology which are aimed at improving the motivation of students and teachers alike. We will examine how multimedia can be given a greater role in the classroom, how we can make greater use of our students’ own interests and discuss how textbooks can be made more relevant. Finally we will explore new possibilities for CPD.


The aim of this talk is to discuss opportunities for changes in methodology which may lead to increased motivation in the classroom. The talk is based around three main concepts which are designed to bring greater motivation for students – Visualisation, Personalisation and Localisation. Visualisation addresses the growing role of multimedia and how we can incorporate this into the learning experience. Personalisation discusses how we can bring our students’ personal interests into the classroom. And Localisation addresses the need for materials which reflect…

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Upcoming event: TESOL Madrid Regional mini-conference

convention-2014-poster-tesol Spain

I have been confirmed as a speaker at the TESOL Madrid Regional Mini-conference, which takes place at the International Institute, c/ Miguel Ángel 7, Madrid on 14th February (very romantic). There will be two sessions of talks, one at 18:00 and another at 19:15, all given by speakers from Madrid who will be presenting at the National Convention in March here in Madrid. My talk will be at 19:15. The other confirmed speakers are Teresa Fleta, Catherine Morley, Katherine Holloway, Jo Steel, Shawn Redwood, Andrea Littlewood and Rebecca Pegg. There’s a wide range of topics to choose from, so all in all it should be a very interesting evening.

The event is open to TESOL Spain members. Hope to see some of you there.

Introducing Dr Herbert Puchta

TESOL Greece Blog

Emotional Engagement for Adult Students

For a long time, the standard beliefs and assumptions about successful language learning have been that the main challenges, particularly those of memory, are cognitive ones. However, recent findings in cognitive sciences clearly indicate that the brain is fundamentally ‘an organ of emotion’. Drawing on neuro-scientific studies and educational theory, we will discuss the key role of emotional engagement in the learning process of adults, and how factors such as challenge, personal discovery, ‘anticipated movement’, relevance, and participation as co-creators of experience can lead to a greater sense of control in the learning situation and to greater success. We will also see that memory itself is not like a container that stores information, or that we simply retrieve from it the knowledge that we have ‘uploaded’ as outcomes of our learning processes; instead, both the formation of memories and their recall engage emotion systems in the brain. We will also look at ways we…

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More hints for speaking exams

I’ve just re-visited Anne Robinson’s ‘Teaching Together – Cambridge English‘ blog and I came across her post ‘Preparation is the key – tips from the Examiners‘ based around the video from Cambridge English I’ve included above. Both the video and Anne’s post are full of useful tips for improving performance in the Cambridge speaking exams,so I thought it would be a good idea to share it here.

Related articles:

Speaking exams: What to do … and What to avoid

Tips for Speakng Tests (I)

Tips for Speaking Tests (II)

Tips for Speaking Tests (III)

Speaking Activities (Page)

4 Approaches to learning vocabulary

I’ve just read Gareth Davies’s entry on the OUP Blog ‘Getting the words off the page‘ and it set me thinking about how I approach vocabulary learning in my classes. So here are four suggestions I use with my students to help them get the vocabulary off the page:

1. Keep a vocabulary notebook

This is something I learnt from my Latin teacher, Mr. Ford (I learnt a great deal from this teacher, not just Latin). He would come into the class each day with a very old book of Latin vocabulary and would bombard us with words which we would have to translate into English. This doesn’t sound particularly pedagogical these days, but I still remember some of the words he ‘taught’ us in that way. The vocabulary was arranged in semantic fields, and he repeated the same vocabulary over and over, until we knew it well. He also remembered which words you had failed on the previous day, so he asked you again.

I have transferred this technique to my classes in two ways. First, I use the same method when teaching irregular verbs, spending the first five minutes of class asking for the past simple or past participle of different verbs, a little like grammar tennis. More importantly I encourage my students to create their own vocabulary notebooks, small enough to carry around, with the words and phrases organised in semantic fields. Once they have their notebook, they should carry it with them as much as possible, and simply reading it as regularly as possible. In this way they replicate the experience of being in Mr Ford’s class, and they learn the vocabulary in a far more painless way than in the case with which Gareth begins his post.

2. Flashcards

When I first started teaching, I worked with a class of five-year-olds who were just beginning to read in Spanish. So instead of writing the vocabulary on the board, I started to draw pictures for them, filling the board with ilustrations of the vocabulary we were learning. I gave them photocopies of some of the pictures to colour and keep, and we used these to decorate other parts of the classroom. We also made simple card games for Pelmanism, one set each month.


Obviously this is a lot of work to build into an ever busier schedule, but luckily the publishers are now far more aware of the need for visual support material and provide generous packs of flashcards with any new method, including flashcards in digital format for those of us who have access to an IWB. Flashcards are great for playing vocabulary games with young learners, but they can also be used with older students in different ways. For example, keep a set of flashcards for classroom requests and instructions in an envelope on a table at the back of the class, and if a student wants to ask for something but doesn’t remember the word or phrase s/he can go and get the flashcard to scaffold the request. The same can be done if we display these flashcards across the front of the class (above the board if it is a traditional class). This way the teacher can also point to the phrase as a way of provising visual scaffolding. And if the learner has a smartphone, there are several apps which provide flashcards for the phone, both in Android and iOS. These can be used in a similar way to the vocabulary notebook mentioned above.

3. Raps, chants and rhymes

This is something I have used less in class, at least formally, but I have to say they are effective. As an alternative to the raps and chants in the book, particularly with teenage students it can be fun to have them create the raps and share them with the class. And it doesn’t have to be a rap. I have attended workshops run by Spencer Kagan’s team where in one activity we had to fit the instructions to a process into a well-known tune of our choice! This would be fantastic for a CLIL lesson.

4. Getting physical

For many learners, adding a physical action to the learning process can be a great help when it comes to memorising vocabulary, and indeed other things. In his plenary talk at the TESOL Spain Convention in Seville last March (and at the TESOL France Colloquium in November) entitled ‘The learning body‘, Scott Thornbury emphasised the importance of the physical descarga (1) element of language learning, and this can be applied particularly well to learning vocabulary. By adding a physical action to the item of vocabulary when it is presented and repeating it when it is used or revised, learning becomes a whole body experience. This can be enhanced where possible by including mime games to revise vocabulary, and even TPR. When I was teaching young learners (in my case five-year-olds) I found that they learnt songs far better when they had a series of actions to perform at the same time – indeed the actions structured the memorising of the song, so that they often ran through the actions of a part where they didn’t remember the words before going back and singing it. Actions of this kind also allow the teacher to scaffold in a relatively unobtrusive way, since if the student becomes stuck, it is often enough for the teacher to perform the associated action in order to jog the student’s memory. The potential drawback here is that students often scaffold themselves using the gestures when they are writing their vocabulary test!

Speaking activity: Would I lie to you?

Speech bubbles

So the Christmas holidays are fading from memory already, but before we start to look ahead and plan the new term, I usually take a moment in class to let my students talk about what they did in the holidays, and about their Christmas presents. There are different activities which can be used to do this. Sometimes I use ‘Speed Dating‘, particularly with older groups, but this year I have used the activity ‘Would I Lie to You?’.

In this activity, I start by asking students to write down one thing they did during the holidays, one place they went and one Christmas present they received. Two of these pieces of information should be true, and one false. I give the a little time to recall all the details surrounding each of these bits of information. When they are ready, the studetns take turns to come to the front of the class, write their three bits of information on the board and answer questions on them from their fellow students. The other students are encouraged to ask open questions in order to get as much detail from their classmate as possible, hopefully causing him / her to make a mistake when talking about the piece of information which is false.

Once the students have asked their questions, have them vote on each piece of information. Make sure they only vote ‘False’ for one of the three. So that all the votes are cast at the same time, I have them write ‘TRUE’ on one side of a piece of paper and ‘FALSE’ on the other side, so that they can register their votes without speaking, and simultaneously.


For less able classes, I use a variant of this game where they simply name three Christmas presents they received, and the others try to find out which one is false.