Ways to Form Student Groups

I will be heading back to the classroom in May to teach an intensive EAP writing course. I'm looking forward to helping international students improve their writing and communication skills after a long break. There is always one group project in this particular COMM course that I will be teaching so I started to think about the students working in groups.  

Do you have students work in groups?  If so, how do you get your students into groups? Are the groups student-assigned, teacher-assigned or randomly chosen?  

Student-Assigned Groups

Based on my experience from 20 years of teaching, I have found that students prefer to form their own groups.  This works well when students know each other but I have discovered that in many post-secondary classes, students come from a variety of programs and therefore may not know anyone in the class.

Make sure you have students form groups in class and then have them submit a list of names to you. Also, ensure that...

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English Clubs in Africa - More than just learning English!

One of the sessions that I attended at the TESOL Convention last March was about English Clubs in Africa.  The growth has been remarkable and there are now more than 35,000 English Club members in Africa! Kathleen Malu, from the U.S. State Department, has been working on this project.  She was unable to attend the convention, but I was able to meet an extraordinary young English teacher and English Club founder from Senegal, West Africa - Seydou Sy Obama.

Here is my wonderful interview with the inspirational Seydou!


Patrice:  Can you tell us where you teach and how long you have been teaching?
Thank you very much for giving me the chance to share my experience with teachers around the world. I am teaching in Senegal, West Africa and have been teaching since October 2015.
P:  I understand that English Club membership is growing in Africa.  When did you start your English Club in Senegal?
S: I discovered English Clubs in my first...

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Conference Presenter:  Yes, Maybe or Never?

Uncategorized Apr 06, 2017

I sit on my local TESL Board of Directors.  We've spent the past few months planning our Spring conference which takes place on April 22. This year, there were several presenter proposals to choose from however this has not been the case in previous years.  

Being the curious person that I am, I wanted to find out why so few teachers are interested in presenting at conferences. I decided to design a 3-question survey to find out why https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/8DVR9DW.  If you could take just one minute to complete the survey, I would appreciate it.  I'll report back on the findings in next week's blog post.  

My good teacher/friend Joan Bartel and I share the view that presenting at conferences is not only fun but addictive!  

Was I always such a conference-keener?  Of course not!  

I can clearly remember my first conference presentation.  I was working in a Teaching and Learning Centre in Hong Kong and I was told (not asked)...

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The Joys of Being Part of a Teacher Tribe: TESOL Conference Updates

teacher tribe Mar 28, 2017


I have just returned from 5 days in Seattle, USA where I had the opportunity to attend TESOL's annual conference. Can you imagine 6,000 teachers in one place? The highlight for me was connecting with many teachers from around the world but I'm always excited to attend presentations and learn more about our field (e.g. setting up English Clubs in Africa, teaching issues in Cuba and an upcoming conference there, and the latest on materials writing/publishing).

TESOL's President Dudley Reynolds opened the conference by reminding us of the role we play as teaching professions and questioned how we can elevate our profession: "We contribute to multilinguals. How do we make our profession a force in the world? How do we create a presence globally?"

What do you think? Do you feel that English language teachers need to create a global presence?


Conference Connections



 Cathy Raymond, Executive Director AIWR, TESOL Conference, March 2017

I had the pleasure of...

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An Online Conference you can't miss!

online conferences Mar 17, 2017

Online Conferences: A new trend?

Spring is certainly a popular time for TESL conferences.  Have you noticed that more and more conferences are going online?  A perfect example is the SkyTeach conference this weekend http://conference.skyteach.ru/ (30 speakers from around the world and more than 1,000 participants!).

Another online conference that I am thrilled to be part of is the Online Teacher Summit taking place from April 2 - 9.  

There is growing interest in online language teaching so this free conference is timely. Technology allows us to teach a language from anywhere in the world. This 100% online event will provide information about the best tools and practices from experienced online teachers.

Click here to sign up!  http://onlineteachersummit.com/dap/a/?a=57





We all make them. 

It's embarrassing especially as language teachers but we all make errors.  I always say that when I win a...

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Power Pose: Real or Placebo Effect?

Almost one year ago, I wrote about Amy Cuddy and her research related to the "power pose".  If you didn't read that post, here is the link (http:// https://www.patricepalmer.ca/blog/the-super-hero-pose-fact-or-fiction).

If you are unfamiliar with the concept of the "power pose", it means adopting a posture or stance like a "superhero" (hands on hips, standing tall and powerful).  The idea is that we gain confidence from standing like a super hero!  

Cuddy faced much criticism regarding her research and book - Presence Bringing Your Boldest Self to your Biggest Challenges (http://amzn.to/2mU6OmJ.   

According to Cuddy, "the key finding is simple: adopting expansive postures causes people to feel more powerful".  She reports that this effect has been replicated in at least nine published studies and in at least four unpublished studies from nine different labs.

In addition, Cuddy argues that "what’s absolutely clear from...

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Tips for Drawing-Challenged Teachers

drawing esl teaching Mar 03, 2017

Do you feel drawing-challenged?

As teachers, we often use the board to "draw" a word or concept. I have always felt "drawing-challenged" and dreaded those moments when I realized that drawing on the board would be helpful for my students. My most recent "drawing disaster" was an attempt to draw an airplane which ended up looking like a sickly bird!

Have you also had drawing disasters?

Well, hopefully our drawing skills are about to improve! I was away last weekend and decided to make it a computer-free weekend. This meant spending several hours reading. While reading Creative Confidence by Tom and David Kelley (another great book), I learned about author Dan Roam and his wonderful books that help people become better visual communicators.

Dan has several books but the one that I think relates most to what we do as teachers is called Blah Blah Blah - What to do when Words don't Work http://amzn.to/2mDvlIn. We know as ESL/EFL teachers, sometimes our words "just...

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Coming Clean: Mental Health Issues in ELT

Update on last week's blog post - Why Students' Cell Phones belong in a Shoe Bag! https://www.patricepalmer.ca/blog/why-students-cell-phones-belong-in-a-shoe-bag

There were a few responses on twitter.  It appears that teachers have very strong views about the use of phones in the classroom.

Banning cellphones in an adult classroom - unnecessarily authoritarian

Wondering how #ELTs of adults would feel if asked to voluntarily surrender cell phones at conferences

No cph use inclass (including breaks-commoncourtesy) S/T pushback!

Good topic. My adult students are literally driving me insane with the use of cellphones.  It’s not just texting, making and taking calls but some of them actually record the lessons being taught.  This is very distracting.

The point I was trying to make was not a complete ban, but I would like to have at least the first 5 minutes of class so I can say hello to students, and introduce the lesson!

Coming Clean: Mental Health Issues...

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Why Students' Cell Phones belong in a Shoe Bag!

Are cell phones a problem in your classroom?  Do you find that students are easily distracted because of their phones?  I accepted a 7 week EAP contract at a local college a few weeks ago.  It has been more than a year since I taught young international students studying English in Canada.  I am not sure if students are becoming more addicted to their cell phones (and can't put them away for even a minute) or I have less tolerance for the constant distraction of phone use and texting.  

I spotted a former colleague in a classroom last week and popped in to say hello.  I noticed a shoe bag hanging on the wall near the door and asked about it.  She said that she set up a system of using the shoe bag for cell phones and it has worked like a charm.  If I do return to the EAP class in the summer, I will be bringing my shoe bag with me!

She also said that she uses this Breaking News lesson plan ...

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Chris Kelly's Biggest Surprise as a Teacher in China

teaching in china Feb 08, 2017

As teachers, we are always proud of our students when they are successful. Being an instructional coach for new ESL/EFL teachers is no different. I love seeing new teachers develop both their skills and confidence. Chris Kelly is a perfect example.  Just over a year ago, Chris contacted me about providing instructional coaching before he headed off to China. We had a few Skype calls and off Chris went.  It was great to hear from him after he completed his first year as a new teacher in China.  (If you are interested in learning more about instructional coaching with me, click here https://www.patricepalmer.ca/pages/coachingforeslteachers

Chris can you tell us a bit about yourself?

I am 26 year old new (1 year in) teacher from America. I hope to make international teaching my lifelong pursuit. I’m learning Chinese and how to cook. Both are going very slowly, but I will succeed! Eventually.

Where did you do your TESL/TEFL training?

My primary...

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