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As I’ve alluded to in a previous post, I am soon going to be starting a new job. So, Mike, will you have a bit of a break before you start in your new role? Well, you would have thought that this would be favourable, but in the end I am working right up to the day before I move to my new place of work. All of that means it’s a bit like I’m marking time (days of teaching left: III – not marking time, honest!) – I am, in fact, trying to put together some lessons that will suit the needs of the students I’m currently teaching. This is no small feat either, since I have some who have now taken and passed all their exams, others who have failed their reading exam, and others who have been recently enrolled and need to do all three of Reading, Writing and Speaking & Listening. No small task indeed.

I’m attempting to make them interesting and relevant (for myself as much as for the students), and maybe let’s try and include a bit of criticality and scepticism in the mix as well. Here is a potential running order (AKA notes to self):

1) Show the students this word cloud (created using the text from Sugata Mitra’s TED Talk, ‘Build a School in the Cloud’), but not telling them where it’s from just yet. Encourage them to identify words they know and those they don’t.

What do you make of that?

What do you make of that?

Encourage them to use reference material (dictionaries – paper or electronic, each other’s knowledge) to find out the meaning of unknown words. Encourage students to note these down on address cards with bits of important information about the word in a methodical fashion (see example).

What the students note down may differ...

What the students note down may differ…

2) Then provide the students with a list of discussion questions about schooling and leave them to discuss these:

  • What do you think a school should be for?
  • Do you think your school does this?
  • What do you think the people who run your school think it is for?
  • Do you think your school does this?
  • Imagine there were no teachers. Could you still learn? How?
  • What would you want to learn?

(Clandfield & Meddings, 2012: activity 4)

(Depending on their ability to manage themselves, leave the room or just stay at a distance and observe from the corner of the room)

3) After about 15-20 minutes ask them to report back on what they discussed. Did they agree? Why (not)? Board some of the points and elicit more information (maximum 5 or 6). Challenge students to write as many of the phrases as they can remember. Ask students to volunteer their phrases, tidy them up, clarify meaning, drill pronunciation, etc. as necessary. Get the student to transform them (if they can, and if it’s possible without sounding weird).

4) Draw attention back to the word cloud they worked with at the beginning of the lesson. Do they know where it comes from? Introduce the Sugata Mitra video  (at the link previously mentioned here). Ask them to watch it, and use the following questions to interrogate it:

  • Does it make claims which are ‘too good to be true’?
  • Does it make illogical or impossible claims?
  • Does it make claims that are vague or hard to test?
  • Is there any (real) evidence that suggests this approach would work?

(adapted from Mayne, 2014)

Plus two more from me

  • Would this approach have worked for you?
  • Would you like this approach to be (have been) used with your children?

5) Put the students’ opinions in a pot and stir well!!

I’ll let you know how it goes!!


  • Clandfield, L. & L. Meddings (2012), 52: A year of subversive activity for the ELT classroom, The Round (the ebook can be purchased from Amazon and Smashwords)
  • Mayne, R. (2014), A guide to pseudoscience in English language teaching, IATEFL Harrogate 2014 (a recording of Russell’s talk and a copy of his slides are available on the IATEFL Online site)
  • Mitra, S. (2013), Build a School in the Cloud, TED 2013, Long Beach, CA., USA (a recording of Mitra’s talk is on the TED website)


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